Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Bacon is Good for Me



I cannot stop watching this truly beautiful video (found via @robmanuel at b3ta). How wonderful is this kid?

Some of Curtis's gems:

"I want my bacon. I got to tell you something. Bacon is good for me".
"She's the queen, and we're the sorry people".
"Joy, I have been nice to you, but now I'm coming to the edge".
"She's gonna try to stop me but she can't run in those little high heels".


I wish UK's Wife Swap was this good.

Talking of bacon and America, I just found out that we can now get the almghty US invention Baconnaise over here.

I'm getting me some, cos bacon is good for me.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Breakfast at Côte, Hay's Galleria (Review)

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So I was looking for somewhere to have breakfast near London Bridge. Brindisa, Roast, the Table and more sounded tempting, but none of them opened till past ten.

In the end, hubby and I plumped for Côte Brasserie in Hay's Galleria, as I'd heard good things about them, though obviously their steak skills wouldn't necessarily have any bearing on their breakfast abilities.

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Côte is right on the river, so we sat near the door for a waterfront view. Every table was adorned with a pot of Bonne Maman preserve, but this was about as useful as the flower that would normally be there as the jars were very much unopened and I think they'd flinch if you popped that safety seal.

Seconds after we sat down however, they gave us three dishes of strawberry, blackcurrant and apricot jams, as well a lovely stoneware bottle of filtered water and some bottles of Heinz ketchup and HP sauce. My pomegranate juice tasted odd though - too astringent and also with a melon aftertaste and I hate melon. My husband's Café Américain was "adequate" though they did provide a little jug of warmed milk.

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As for eats, hubby ordered the Full English Breakfast; I went for a small Eggs Benedict and a sausage baguette.

Hubby's toast arrived first with a pat of butter, and I quickly relieved him of two of the slices so I could try the jams which were all very good, if a little sloppy.

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Our breakfasts came shortly after and it all looked impressive as we tucked in. The Full English comprised two rashers of bacon, a Cumberland sausage, grilled tomato, some button mushrooms and eggs any way you like - hubby opted for scrambled.

There was also a random scattering of parsley but alas no baked beans, which my husband was rather put out about. But all the components were stellar examples, save the tomato which, though seared on the outside, was cold and hard inside.

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My solo Egg Benedict looked good, but the muffin was soggy, the hollandaise too sharp and, unforgiveably, the yolk was hard (my favourite voiceover of all time is Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares saying "The rice was hard. What a cock-up").

Even the flecks of cayenne pepper did nothing to ease my sense of eggy loss.

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Fortunately the sausage baguette was a corker - good, randomly sliced, meaty bangers in fresh, crusty bread.

My husband complained that the sausages were a bit too posh, but that tramp would eat nothing but Gregg's if I let him and I know he was just piqued that there was no fried slice.

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Anyway, we managed to finish the lot, even though the couple next to us were trying to eat each other's faces (I guess that's what happens when you only order granola).

So, the Full English was fairly good, the Eggs Benedict bitterly disappointing and the sausage baguette a minor triumph (and also a bargain at £3.90).

We asked for the bill then - 12.5% is added on which always jars me a little and apparently they'd mistakenly given me cranberry juice - and my mood was dampened even further when I popped to the ladies and was confronted by some resident evil.

Ruddy good view though.

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Côte Restaurant
The Riverside
Hay's Galleria
Tooley Street
London
SE1 2HD
020 7234 0800


Cote Brasserie (Hays Galleria) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A MasterChef Motivator

Masterchef Motivator


Limping through Holborn today (I had an unfortunate skipping accident), who should I pass but Gregg the Grocer aka Gregg Wallace of TV's Masterchef.

If I'd been a bit more on the ball, I would have yelled "
Puddingface!" at him; as it is, I just grinned inanely. He was too busy smiling smugly to himself to notice me anyway.

Perhaps he was fondly recalling today's episode of MasterChef: The Professionals. For tonight Mr Wallace unleashed the following corker:

"There is mistakes throughout your cooking".

I was giggling so much that I almost missed Michel Roux Jnr denouncing the crack in a chocolate roulade as a "Chasm" as in Chas'n'Dave (who incidentally split up today).

Happy days.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Roasted Marrow Bones and Parsley Salad (Recipe)

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Here's a quick and dirty one.

One of my little pleasures in life is to suck the marrow out of a bone. Osso bucco, lamb shanks, even chicken bones all have chunks of wobbly, meaty goodness to release for my delectation and
, as far as I'm concerned, it's as delicious as foie gras without the guilt.

I'd noticed that Selfridges had some sliced veal bones in its Food Hall, so I schlepped over to pick up a kilo, as well as some chicken hearts and gizzards. To be honest, it gave me a bit of a thrill to be walking around chi-chi Selfridges carrying what my Fallout-playing husband would call a "gorebag".

Anyway, I also got me a loaf of sourdough and a bunch of parsley to construct a celebrated Fergus Henderson recipe - and a death row meal for Anthony Bourdain no less.

Here's my take - serves a greedy two.
Note that you'll need a long thin implement to extract the marrow if the bones haven't been sliced vertically (espresso spoons work well - can someone buy me these please?)

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Roasted Marrow Bones and Parsley Salad
  • Bag of bones (okay, a kilo of trimmed veal bones)
  • Bunch of flatleaf parsley
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 8 capers, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • Loaf of sourdough bread
  • Coarse sea salt or salt flakes (I use Maldon)
Place a sheet of foil on a baking tray and then prop the bones on the tray, marrow facing upwards if they've been cut in half, or else upright on their ends. Season lightly with a bit of salt and pepper.

Roast the bones at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 5 for about 15 minutes, but keep checking every few minutes because the marrow may just melt away if you're not careful ...

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Meanwhile, pick the parsley leaves off the stems and chop roughly. Place in a salad bowl with the sliced shallots.

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice, and capers together and add a little salt and pepper.

When the bones are almost ready, slice the sourdough bread and toast lightly. Toss the dressing with the parsley and shallots.


Sprinkle the sea salt on the roasted marrow, serve with toast and parsley salad and enjoy!

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

All Tomorrow's Parties and Sông Quê (Review)

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The other day, my husband and I went to a preview screening of my new film All Tomorrow's Parties. I say "my film", of course what I actually mean is a film to which I've been lucky enough to contribute.

This is how it describes itself:

"ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES - THE FILM

FEATURING: Belle And Sebastian / Sonic Youth / Battles / Portishead / Daniel Johnston / David Cross / Animal Collective / The Boredoms / Mogwai / Slint / The Dirty Three / The Gossip / GZA / Iggy Pop / A Hawk And A Hacksaw / Saul Williams / Shellac / Patti Smith / John Cooper Clark / The Mars Volta ...

Coming November 2009 from Warp Films [who made This is England], produced by Luke Morris / Warp X

ATP premiere

In an out-of-season holiday camp on the coast of England, alternative music festival All Tomorrow’s Parties serves up a heady combination of alternative music, crazy golf and chalet-living; all curated by a single band or artist. This post-punk DIY bricolage uses material generated by the fans and musicians themselves, on a multitude of formats and over the history of ATP, to capture the uncompromising spirit of a parallel music universe.

All Tomorrow’s Parties was created by All Tomorrow’s People and Jonathan Caouette."


Me, I'm an All Tomorrow's Person. In the words of the mighty REM, that's me in the corner:

atpeople

The bit I shot was Battles performing Atlas and, rather excitingly, this was used for the opening sequence.

Anyway, the screening was held at the Fleapit pub on Columbia Road, so hubby and I decided to wander down the Phở Mile nearby in search of sustenance.

Now, I'm the type of person who can't go in a restaurant till she's had a good look at what's on offer beforehand. So I drag my husband to read the menu plastered in the window of the first place we come across and say, half to myself, "Interesting". Then I drag him to the next.

It's not till we've got to about the sixth establishment that my poor husband twigs and says weakly, "There are rather a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in this area, aren't there?".

I ignore him as I'm busy trying to remember if the salt and pepper quail was more expensive at the fourth place or the second, and which place it was that offered tendon as well as flank.

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I'm almost sold when I see that Miền Tây has been visited by Chow Yun Fat. Chow Yun Fat!

There he beams in the window, one arm around the owner's shoulder, the other hand with thumb aloft. YES!

Underneath is a photo of another Oriental star, one I don't recognise, and I notice she's striking the exact same pose. It's a winner, no mistake (photo evidence courtesy of bellaphon).

But then I see that the menu is written entirely in bland English ("beef noodle soup", "chicken noodle soup") and I see this as a bad sign, so I continue to drag poor husband down the street.

In the end, I settle on Sông Quê because (a) I've been here before and I remember liking it, and (b) there's about 20 combinations of
phở available.

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As soon as we enter, a waiter rushes up to us, eye a-twitching, and announces "I'm not sure we can squeeze you in and, even if you eat here, you can only stay till 8". Whatevs man, we need to be somewhere else later anyway.

We sit at a tiny, paper-covered table, dwarfed by a precarious rack of vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and chilli. Another couple wafts in and gets the same spiel from Twitch-Eye before sitting down at the next table but one.

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We order some drinks and then hubby orders bun cha gio thit nuong (noodles with pork and spring rolls), I order phở with the works ie rare steak, well-done flank, tendon and tripe, and we ask for that salt and pepper quail and some gỏi cuốn (summer rolls) to start. Then we wait.

A little later, the couple near us make their order. My eye begins to twitch when their food arrives before we've even had a drop to drink. It twitches again when a waiter swipes the condiment rack off our table and places it on theirs with a flourish. The couple tuck in with gusto whilst I look daggers at them.

Suddenly two Hoxtonites with over-styled hair appear, wedge themselves between us and the other couple and mash their table against theirs. I'm perplexed, but it turns out they're friends and the four have in fact sly-ed their way into a group meal. A waiter rushes over and tells them off for not booking.

I'm silently impressed at how the first couple even began eating before their mates turned up to make it look like it was just the two of them.

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Thankfully, at this point both our drinks and starters make an appearance. The quail has been grilled so it's perfectly moist and gnawable (we use our hands, natch) and the zingy salt, pepper and lime dip is a brilliant foil for the sweet meat. The gỏi cuốn are also good - although loaded with too many rice noodles, the prawns are fresh and plump, the mint is zingy and the dip is peanutty heaven.

Sadly our enjoyment is dampened by the braying of the foursome beside us.

"Have you seen you know, that TV programme with the woman with the teeth? And there's a guy with the hair too."

"Oh yeah, that one, that's brilliant, that is."

"And what about the one with the guy who's a doctor but he's a writer? You know, and there's that guy with the hair. And there's that other guy who's great and he's the boss in a different programme with the guy with the hair, but in this one he's also a doctor. And there's the woman with the hair too. That's amazing, that is. It's called, what, Dark Matter? Dark Night?"

"Darkplace", I cough into my napkin but they remain oblivious.

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Our mains arrive then: the bun cha is enormous, with a clump of thin rice noodles covered in barbecue pork and cucumber slivers and a generous wodge of spring roll, plus crispy fried onions and a not entirely pleasant scattering of sugared shrimp floss.

The nước chấm dipping sauce is lovely though, a fine balance of sweet and salty, and hubby liberally douses everything with it.

My phở is equally huge and comes steaming hot with garnishes of sliced chillis and onions, beansprouts, Thai basil, saw-leaf, coriander and lime wedge.

There's lots of tender beef, unctuous tendon and tripe, and the broth is so deep, rich and fragrant that there's no need for me to add sriracha or hoisin (although a waiter does grab the condiment rack back for us).

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Despite its size, I soon find myself staring at the bottom of the bowl. Hubby fails to finish though; the claggy shrimp sprinkle is getting him down.

Sated, I wander off downstairs to find the ladies, only to be confronted by a dark, desolate basement with shelves solely stacked with row after row of unidentifiable bottles. I try not to ponder their contents and get on with business.

When I return, the deploresome foursome have vanished and I do a little fist-pump in the air. Hubby is happily slurping down a sugar-laden iced Vietnamese coffee. All is right with the world.

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Sông Quê, eh?

While the atmosphere is harried, the company decidely lacking and the decor not much to speak of (except for some massive plastic lobsters), the food is good enough and cheap enough that I'll surely be back.

As for the film? It was awesome, of course ...


Sông Quê
134 Kingsland Rd
Shoreditch E2 8DY
020 7613 3222


Song Que on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 September 2009

Potato Tornado at the Life-Size Gundam, Odaiba

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That there in the foreground, my friends, is a Potato Tornado and the only tenuous connection this post has to food.

Last month my husband forced me to make a day trip to what may be the most ridiculous thing this world has ever seen - a life-sized Gundam in Shiokaze Park, Japan.

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Look at me for I surely rock

Gundam, for those who are unaware, were the precursors to Transformers, but unlike those Western upstarts, Gundam were not robots with feelings (and lips), but rather huge vehicular suits for Gundam pilots to steer.

Since their humble beginnings as an anime series, there have been countless iterations in all types of media such as movies, manga, novels and video games, and this year sees the 30th Anniversary of Gundam, culminating in the construction of a 18 metre, 1/1 scale, life-size statue of the iconic Gundam model RX-78-2.

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Massive hand to grasp you Fay Wray style

The site chosen for this awesome monument to Gundam was North Shiokaze Park in Odaiba, Tokyo.

We arrived bright and early on a Thursday morning, yet the crowds were already packed at what was basically a festival of Gundam, with tonnes of security, a merchandise queue which stretched about 200 metres, and dozens of food stalls peddling wares such as yakisoba, kakigori and the aforesaid Potato Tornado (carved from a sole potato and available with butter, cayenne or soy powder sprinkles).

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Awesome


Although initially rather cynical about the whole affair, like every other pilgrim I ended up falling under the spell of Lifesize Gundam, partly because every 15 minutes its eyes lit up and it started talking in an emo voice, and partly because every half-hour clouds of smoke billowed out of every orifice.

We queued no less than three times to stand in between Lifesize Gundam's legs, to stare up at its awesome, metallic groin and to pose for pictures whilst making peace signs.

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Groinage

Rather sweetly / madly,
Lifesize Gundam recently even presided over the wedding of a true Gundam otaku couple.

There were over 500 applications for the chance to be joined in holy matrimony under the gaze of the RX-78-2, and
the lovely picture below is from the winning wedding and is courtesy of Shibuya246. You can read all about the Gundam wedding at Shibuya246's blog here.


Sadly, this gigantic paean to man's obsession with toys is now in the process of being dismantled and its fate is unknown.

But we were there. Oh yes, we were.

See the Lifesize Gundam in action:



Friday, 4 September 2009

Tokyo's Best Little Sushi Bar None

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Maguro (tuna) carpaccio

A good man is hard to find. Good sushi is even harder. At least that seems the case in this fair land of Albion. Supermarket and takeaway interpretations are the rankest imagineable (just ask Richard Vines and Jun Tanaka) and restaurant versions are often no better.

But Japan invented sushi, so you'd expect that their stuff would knock the socks of anything we'd come up with. Surprisingly though, the sushi I had for breakfast at Tsukiji market, the sushi world's El Dorado, was a bit of a let-down and also left me feeling a tad ropey.

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In the end, the best sushi I've ever had was at a tiny kaiten-zushi bar in Ueno, Tokyo. I've no idea what it was called, but as every plate cost 126 yen, to me it's the 126 Yen Sushi Bar (edited on July 2014: apparently it's called Oedo and it's now 130 Yen!).

The first time we ate there the exchange rate was 220 yen to the pound, meaning each plate cost a measly 57p, but even with the economy being in the state it is, this time around it was still only 84p a dish. And what fantastic dishes!

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The sushi chefs were constantly working, skilfully moulding plate after plate after plate of nigiri, but far from becoming stale, each dish trundled along for only a few seconds before being swiped off the conveyor belt by a hungry punter.

I began stockpiling the ones I liked the look of for fear of someone beating me to the punch.

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Clam of some sort

There were lashings of wasabi, ginger and soy to pimp our snacks, but the fish was all so fresh and dazzling and the rice so pearly and more-ish, that it was almost a travesty to add any.

Free tea was provided as well, though a kindly neighbour had to show us how to mix the matcha powder with the scorching hot water on tap.

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Maguro and tororo (grated yama-imo)

Such was my greed that I got cocky and started to shout out special orders like the rest of the customers.

Thankfully, the sushi chef understood my half-baked Japanese and rewarded me with some delicious, briny uni (sea urchin), some ikura (salmon roe) and my favourite tobiko (flying fish roe - like savoury popping candy).

Enough blathering from me, just feast your eyes.

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Ikura (salmon roe)

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Salmon carpaccio

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Geso (squid tentacles)

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Different clam

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Tiny eels (?) with ginger

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Tobiko (flying fish roe)

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Unagi (eel)

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Uni (sea urchin)

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Tako (octopus)

Both times we went there, I damn near consumed my body weight in sushi (did you hear me? 84 pence a dish! One lousy dollar!). I strongly urge you to do the same.

Though they have a Romaji / English sushi menu in the window, there's no such menu inside, but because I'm such a nice (greedy) person, I took a photo of it for posterity and you can print out the large version and use it to order like a local.

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Oh and here's some poor directions (look man, I can't read the language and I can barely speak it so you're not getting street names):

As you come out of the Central Gate exit of Ueno JR station, you'll see a zebra crossing ahead of you and on the other side is a big yellow toy shop called Yamashiroya. Cross over to it and then go down the street that's on the left of Yamishiroya and it's at the end of the first block.

Oedo - 130 Yen Sushi Bar
Nr Ueno JR Station
Ueno
Tokyo


And here's a picture of the outside from Raddy at Style Zeitgeist - if anyone can read Japanese, please could you tell me what the place is actually called?


EDITED TO ADD: Kind readers have told me below that this sushi bar is called Oedo and as of April 2014, the price has gone up to 130 Yen (but it's still a brilliant bargain).

126 yen sushi