Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Starting to think about birthday cakes. Should I remake Nigella's Chocolate Malteser cake, above? Other contenders are the "Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruitcake" from her Christmas book, or a carrot cake. I also fancy Nigel Slater's dried cherry and apricot buns (in last week's Observer Food magazine). Yesterday the flatmate made Anzac Biscuits to celebrate Australia Day; I took the overflow to the office where they were a smash hit. Perhaps I could commission him to make another batch?

Decisions, decisions. Weighty choices to consider.

In the meantime, Boz recommended this:

Every visit to Sainsbury's for the last THREE MONTHS has ended in disappointment. Clearly, the Clapham hordes are buying it just as fast as Sainsbury's can get it in. However, today, at long and final last, my very own jar of Sainsbury's Belgian Milk Chocolate Spread:


I have a feeling it won't last long. * Scrapes bottom of jar *

Thanks Boz!

Yum! :-)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lunch at Le Cercle

London - Restaurants - French

The space is intimate yet glamorous - there’s a definite “see-and-be-seen” vibe with elevated booths surrounding a square of mid-century modern wooden tables and chairs. Lots of floaty white drapes and beautiful lighting - bright yet subtle - complete the scene.

As Lesley and I are in the middle of a credit-crunched January, we opted for the set menu: quite a brief choice (four courses for £19.50, three choices for each course) but still difficult to choose - everything on it sounded tempting. The waiters are great - service was first class; slightly formal but friendly, gracious and even witty.

The food is a revelation. Without a doubt this meal was one of the very best I have ever eaten. Food-wise I’m biased towards Italian or Asian; Le Cercle reawakened me to the French tradition. Every course was fantastic; but the highlights for me were the sashimi-like salmon strips on mushrooms doused with a ginger foam; and the intensely flavoursome choucroute with a delicious selection of porky bits. Tarte Tatin with cinnamon ice-cream to finish was sublime.

The extras do add up quickly and in the end amounted to more than half the bill; however I as I write this I am wondering when I can go again!
Check out my review of Le Cercle - I am hedgiecc - on Qype

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

[status update]

Mercury retrograde with a vengeance!

1) I have mislaid my oyster card. It must be somewhere in the house, but I haven’t found it yet.

2) Last night I lost my wallet! AAAAARGH!! – while running for the train. And whoever picked it up has not handed it in. Bastards.

3) All cards cancelled, one by one, by a call-centre lady in India, who asked me my personal details – name, address, birthdate – for each one in turn.

4) I have fixed the plumbing in the bathroom, however.

Watching the rehearsals for the Presidential inauguration last night, I was wildly cheered to see a helicopter rehearse airlifting former president Bush to wherever he has chosen to live out the rest of his days (Guantanamo might be quite nice).

The reporter was grinning broadly at this too. I think the BBC is doing this sort of thing on purpose – last week a report on Bush’s last press conference lingered lovingly on the very sparse applause he got as he exited.

Well, hip hip hooray for President Obama. As from today the world feels a significantly safer place. Let’s hope so.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

at Sophie's

London - Restaurants - Steak Houses

A lovely spontaneous evening. The relatives were down in London Friday night catching the Warhol exhibition at the Hayward and were debating where to eat afterwards. Caroline hankered after Ping Pong (again) but John wanted novelty and steak. As it happened the Evening Standard had an article that day about businesses beating the recession - Sophie’s steakhouse was one of them (a branch has opened recently in Covent Garden), so we decided to try it.

I was a bit alarmed by the red neon outside - a bit too similar to another rather touristy steakhousy chain. However, inside is more sophisticated, with rather beautiful teardrop lights, lots of warm wood and leather. The room is much larger than appears outside, and the place was busy, yet we got a table immediately on arrival at 9:30 p.m. (they don’t take reservations).

Service was brisk, efficient, and just the right side of friendly. The food arrived quickly: very handsome, generous burgers and fish cakes. They take care to get your steak the way you want it: my steak salad was perfectly rare, juicy and tender. My brother didn’t want his steak “stupidly rare” but he didn’t want it medium either; a tricky request which the kitchen delivered; no complaints from John.

I didn’t enjoy the blue cheese dressing on my salad - I like a more intense dressing, perhaps with actual crumbed cheese. This dressing absolutely drenched the leaves and was way too creamy and bland. I had to check with the waitress that it actually was blue cheese dressing. I’ll take her word for it.

I had a toffee and vanilla milkshake for pudding: sugarholic’s heaven - toffee crumbles, yum!

All in all a rather pleasant experience. I’d be happy to go again if in a carnivorous mood. I’m giving it 4 stars - one star being a benefit of the doubt star, for the salad dressing.
Check out my review of Sophie's Steakhouse & Bar - I am hedgiecc - on Qype

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anniversary - Elizabeth 1

Today is the 450th anniversary of the coronation of Elizabeth 1.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2008 review

My annual check-up and review!

What was your favourite song in 2008?

Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire

What was your favourite album in 2008?

Radiohead: In Rainbows

Are you richer or poorer?

Ha ha. With the ongoing credit crunch and collapse of the property market, like many thousands of others my net worth has probably taken a big hit. It’s possible my flat may already be in negative equity.

I’m not bothered. I love my flat and have no wish to move, have a steady job and can pay the mortgage.

Just in case, I have now got full insurance against illness, accident or redundancy – although it’s vaguely possible I may be let go, the other possibility is that my company may cease trading, so it’s best to be prepared.

I diversified my income streams this year and am looking to continue this process in 2009.

Thinner or fatter?

I think about the same, although general fitness still needs more attention.

What kept you sane in 2008?


Which personal accomplishments in 2008 are you most pleased with?

Being there for relatives in distress.

Expanding my revenue streams.

Continuing to blog while computerless; hitting my target of an average of 12 posts a month, with monthly totals being more consistent overall.

Finally replacing my apple mac – bought a brand-new powerbook 13” in November.

Buying an almost-new Nikon SLR off eBay.

What was the happiest moment of 2008?

Ingrid, Peter and family visiting.

What was your saddest moment of 2008?

My mother had a difficult year, but by December things were looking massively up for her.

Which bad habit are you most motivated to break?

Procrastination and hoarding are endemic issues with me – I have improved over the last few years but still need to be constantly aware. Flow.

What are you looking forward to in 2009?

One of my drearest friends is coming to visit London in the Spring.

More travel. I have promised the niece and nephew a trip to Rome in May; a German visit is on the cards; I would love to go to Poland if possible. My brother, sister and I plan to bring my mother across in the Summer – I may have to fly out to Johannesburg to collect her. If so, I would like to combine that with a visit to friends in Cape Town.

Fleet Foxes

My first CD of 2009:

Actually, very good indeed. Quite folky but subtly updated.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Snowy knows all

“Tell yourself, if you like, that it was just that Tintin hasn't yet met the right girl. Or maybe that it's only a stage he's going through. But if you expect a Belgian Catholic born in 1907 to have unmasked the hero of his blockbuster series of comic adventures as an out-gay activist and homosexual icon, you expect too much. HergĂ© was no Andy Warhol (HergĂ©'s great admirer). But Snowy saw everything; Snowy knows all. And Snowy never tells.”

- Matthew Paris’s provocative yet hilarious outing in The Times

Saturday, January 03, 2009

London - Food & Drink - Bakeries

1) At work I was drafted in as an amateur (cheap) stylist on a food shoot - the very trendy (expensive) photographer demanded an array of photographic comestibles from Baker & Spice.

2) My friend Mark works in the food industry in Cape Town, South Africa. On a recent research trip to London Baker & Spice was top of his “must see” list.

3) On their website Baker & Spice have a section offering catering on private jets.

The above gives some idea of what the B&S experience will be like - some, but definitely not all.

My photographer was probably thinking less of visual aesthetics than of her stomach. As gorgeous as they are, B&S creations focus more on superb (largely organic) ingredients and technique than on visuals. The food is appetizing, no doubt, but in a slightly hippy, good-earth, bountiful Mother Nature home-made sort-of way. Dainty chi-chi cupcakes you can find elsewhere.

I somewhat fancied a slice of blueberry cheesecake - although it looked huge and generous, I was slightly nervous it would turn out to be disappointing stodge. The risk was escalated by the vertiginous price of a slice - second mortgages required.

I needn’t have worried. This was the Platonic ideal of cheesecake - although my relationship with it was savagely carnal and all-too-brief. Rich and smooth and yet deceptively light, the creaminess was set off by the tartness of the blueberries. Addiction at first hit.

The service amused me. The staff seemed to regard the shop/cafe as their personal space and accommodated customers’ needs grudgingly. While we were there two of them gossiped loudly about an absent colleague.

For those of us on average wages, go there for a treat. For those of us with private jets, go for it!
Check out my review of Baker & Spice - I am hedgiecc - on Qype