MeLikeyUK has taken upon herself the burden of checking out Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, the triple Michelin-starred gastro-heaven in Mayfair, so if you’ve been toying with the idea, you should definitely look over her report. AD at TD is a special occasion restaurant for most of us who haven’t the luck to be able to pop in frequently, and MeLikey’s dinner was a birthday surprise from her incredibly thoughtful husband who walked her through the back streets of Mayfair to keep the destination a secret for as long as possible. The short form is, they had an amazingly good time with the tasting menu and the excellent service. She’s written a thorough description of the meal and all it’s done for us is make us want to book. Oh look. toptable has a special offer at AD for 15% off the tasting and seasonal menus — pretty appetising.
Not a euphemism or a nasty moniker, but the actual fat stuff itself. The estimable Oliver Thring has turned his probing attention to the subject of lard in this week’s Word of Mouth blog and it’s got more to recommend it than you’d ever imagine. First of all, it’s better for you, speaking cholesterol-wise, than butter. It’s way, way better for you than hydrogenated margarine. For centuries, lard was the cooking fat of Europe — some never stopped using it. When the Poles arrived here in droves, they caused a UK-wide shortage of the stuff. If you’re doing one of those lifetime diets where you eat only the things your great grandmother would recognise as food, then lard is definitely on the list. There are those who swear by it for making roast spuds and pie crusts and the only problem is that it’s fallen so far out of favour that it’s a bit tricky to find on the grocer’s shelves. Actually, that might not be such a terrible thing, because the home made stuff is really better for you and it’s apparently dead easy to make.
Pub of the Year
Self-proclaimed beerophiles CAMRA have named their Pub of the Year, voted on by more than more than 120,000 rabid beer-lovers from around the country, reports the Londonist. May we have a drum roll or moment of silence or something else dramatic please? The winner is The Harp in Covent Garden with an old-fashioned pub ambience and a rota of ever-changing cask ales that are perfectly kept and cheerfully served. It’s a narrow frontage in Chandos Street that goes back and back, so there’s more room than you think. We know how tricky it is to find a proper pub anywhere these days, let alone one in the heaving West End, so thanks, CAMRA, for pointing our thirsty selves in this direction.
Runners up, if you’re not in a London mood, are Taps in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, the Salutation Inn, in Ham, Gloucestershire, and The Beacon Hotel in Sedgley, West Midlands. Congratulations to all and cheers!
TwelvePointFivePercent has the great good luck to be related by marriage to chef and writer Paulette Do Van who wrote Vietnamese Cooking back in the early 90’s and introduced this Dorset country boy to the delights of Indochinese cooking. He has never forgotten it and still loves Vietnamese food, which may be what led him to Viet Grill in Shoreditch not long ago. Kingsland Road is packed with Vietnamese restaurants, many of the plastic-chairs-and-strip-lighting variety and some, like Viet Grill, a bit more gussied up, though that apparently doesn’t adversely affect the quality of the cuisine. 12.5 managed to choose, quite by accident, Viet Grill’s signature dish of marinated monkfish grilled right there on the table and served on cold noodles with fennel, peanuts and some other things. He reckons that for £13 for two, it was a blinding bargain. In fact, he liked everything he ate and drank and he liked the service too. His blog has a nice, succinct discussion of the influences that have gone into creating Vietnamese food — an extra treat.
Nothing But Crisps
A strange little story this and not really a blog at all, but the Guardian‘s Experience column relates the story of the young woman who has eaten almost nothing except BBQ flavoured crisps for the past ten years. When her son was young, she started her habit and that’s been it for a decade. BBQ crisps. Actually, two family-sized bags a day for two years and not much else for the ten years before that. And she’s still alive.
We know other people’s eating habits are interesting only when they veer into the abnormal, like Monsieur Mangetout from Grenoble who ate glass, metal and rubber for a living. Over the course of his life he ate several bicycles, shopping trolleys, and even an airplane. Or the gigantically overweight people who appear in diapers in real life tv documentaries being hoisted out of their houses by cranes. Or Posh Spice.
There was a great line in the movie Robin Hood — Prince of Thieves years ago. The scriptwriters had to justify the presence of Morgan Freeman in Sherwood Forest so they had a sweet little movie child ask, ‘Why is your skin black?’ And Freeman replied, in that fabulous voice of his, ‘Because Allah enjoys infinite variety.’
So too in foods. The earth is groaning with infinite variety of fruits, fish, grains, meats, leaves and vegetables which the infinitely various minds of humans have turned into spag bol, black cod with miso, brownies, pad thai, roast dinner, full English, negamaki. But appetites are infinitely various, too. What suits the a Chinese marketeer dining on chicken feet would shock an American kid with his fast burger and fries, and the BBQ crisps lady would astound a North African putting the final touches on the fifteenth type of mezze for the evening meal. The point of it all is nourishment, sure, but also pleasure, creativity, sharing and even joy.
This story about the BBQ crisps lady smacks loudly of eating disorder, though she seems only a little defensive and actually quite chilled about it all. We hope her health holds out and that she lives to a ripe old age to laugh at all us five-a-dayers. But most of all, because food brings us so much fulfillment in so many ways, we hope her crisps are giving her that, too. We wish her joy.