Monthly Archives: August 2015

Good Eatin’: Chinese Food & Patisserie Valerie

 List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

 Another big week for food items. 13 in total. Thanks to lunch with a friend, brunch with a friend, a Saturday night takeaway and some general dinners I am well over half way towards my goal of half of the combined food books.

Food item: Spring Vegetable Soup Food item: Consommé

I never realised how many tinned soup would end up on the newer food list. I mean, cream of tomato is obvious (and yet I haven’t had it yet) but I just had some spring vegetable soup at the back of the cupboard so why not?

Well, to be honest, I was not the biggest fan of the spring vegetable soup. Maybe it was the abundance of sweet, but it didn’t have too much flavour. It did after I added in some sweet chilli sauce. Then it became really nice. I found a similar thing with the consommé, which was basically like eating a soup of hot Bovril.

Food item: Cheong Fun Food item: Gyoza

I was sat when my friend Gill moved floors, but a silver lining is that we schedule in lunches where we go to Chinatown and have catch-ups. I guess sometimes it takes someone being removed to realise where the friendship lays.

So yes we got some dim sum for my food list. Firstly there is the cheong fun, my favourite of all the dim sum despite being named for its similarity to pig intestines. When compared to a lot of the dim sum you see offered in Chinatown it is very different. Not a dumpling, but it shares a lot of the properties of being a dumpling. It’s floppy, flavour absorbant and strangely fun to eat. It comes with lots of fillings, pork or prawn being my favourites.

Then there are the gyoza, a very familiar dumpling to most people. In many ways it is a beginners’ dumpling despite having thicker pastry than most and being better served with vinegar rather than soy sauce. Whilst I do like these they are not my usual go to when having dim sum. Mainly because they are the most readily available of all dumplings.

Food item: Green Tea Ice Cream

It’s deadly having a really good ice cream place nearby, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really rate ice cream that high. Then again Scoop is one of those places that is just… brilliant. So I got myself a double scoop, one of white chocolate (which was perfect) and one of green tea. It was a different flavour, definitely on the savoury side. It went surprisingly well with the white chocolate which made it taste how I would imagine green tea with milk in would taste like.

I also noticed that they have an ice cream on their with another list item as an ingredient… but I really wanted the white chocolate scoop.

Food item: Chicken Fajitas Food item: Hot Cross Buns

I love fajitas. By some act of witchcraft I convinced my partner (who does not eat chicken) to let me make chicken fajitas. There isn’t much to say about these… just that I hope these can stay in the rotation.

The hot cross buns were a holdover from it being the week after Easter. Whilst I had some Tesco hot cross buns at home there was no way that I could say no when my mum offered me a luxury Marks and Spencer luxury hot cross bun. There is a reason these are so highly rated, much nicer than the Tesco ones.

Food items: Scrambled Eggs, Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon Food item: Tarte Aux Fraises

Brunch with my friend Corinne. It had been over a year since we had a proper catch-up with just the two of us so I suggested we do brunch… because it sounded like the adult thing to do. So that’s what we did, and pretty much talked solidly for nearly 5 hours. At no point did the staff in Patisserie Valerie try to get us to move on. Then again, we punctuated our brunch with a 40 minute walk before returning for cake.

Having scrambled eggs and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon ticked off at the same time feels like a bit of a cheat if I am being honest. I guess that is an issue with the book more than anything, but I’m not going to complain when I am able to whisk my way through the list. It had been so long since I had scrambled eggs that I may have eaten them too quickly. Then again, not quick enough seeing how the smoked salmon started to ceviche in front of my eyes.

After our walk, which included a steep hill seemingly from nowhere, we looped back to the cafe and we shared a tarte aux fraises (after I pointed out the signs for tarte aux fraises and tarte aux framboises were the wrong way round like the pedant that I am).

I wish that these were cheaper and that I had more of them. Strawberries, jelly and cream custard on top of buttery pastry? Yes please! There is a reason why the French are regarded for their tarts, so why fight it? Just leave them in charge.

Food items: Sweet and Sour Pork, Singapore Noodles, Char Siu Pork

Ah the Chinese Takeaway. The good people at Ocean City Swallow are my favourite Chinese takeaway place that I have ever had. I previously had octopus from them, but this time is something more regular.

The singapore ho fun noodles is are among our regular dishes ordered from Ocean City Swallow. The ho fun noodles are easily my favourite type of noodle because of their flat thickness. The curry powder and the char siu pork in these noodles just make it one of my favourite things to order. Period. I remember having to get Singapore noodles for my nan and she would ask for them not to be spicy, always an interesting conversation.

That leaves us with the sweet and sour pork, one of those meals rated as a favourite take away in Britain. Whilst there are many other things I prefer, such as pork in yellow bean sauce, there is a simple deliciousness in this.

Progress: 515/933

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Acclaimed Albums – Ramones by Ramones

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 73/250Title: Ramones
Artist: Ramones
Year: 1976
Position: #38

Ah the birth of punk. Back when I was listening to London Calling  (almost a year ago now… wow) I was reading up about the world of post-punk. How punk and post-punk emerged around the same time, with punk obviously coming out first.

The thing is, Ramones isn’t only the first proper pure punk album that I’ve listened to, other than London Calling the only punk I listened to was Gogol Bordello (which is gypsy punk so not sure that really counts), but the first proper punk album period. Yes, punk did exist in the years prior to this but Ramones is considered by many to be the first real punk album and the blue print of all that was to follow.

The first thing that was really noticeable to me about Ramones was not anything to do with the music. It was just how short the album was. I mean, here we have an album that is really high on this list and it has a runtime of under 30 minutes. It really felt like it was over before it began.

I guess that’s why the album works though. It doesn’t end up collapsing under its own weight or repeating themselves needlessly. It is just this musical force of nature that ushered in a lot of what was to come.

Let’s Get Literal: Animal Farm by George Orwell

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 21/100Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Year: 1945
Country: UK

From one book about a farm to another and the difference could not be more pronounced even if I tried. Yes, they are both short books that deal with concepts of morality through the medium of talking animals, but that’s where any similarities end.

Going into Animal Farm I was at a slight disadvantage since I already knew the story pretty well. As part of my original 1001 Movies obsession I checked out a copy of the 1950s animated adaptation, as such I had already shed my tears for the fate of Boxer meaning my trip home from the office did not get too awkward.

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I say it was a disadvantage since a lot of horrific parts of the book did not shock me since I was pre-warned to them some 10 years ago. There were still elements that still got to me like Boxer (just in general) and the depiction of Stalin’s ‘Reign of Terror’ through the massacring of animals by having their throats ripped out.

I can not quite remember there being many occassions where I was so gripped by a book as by Animal Farm. Gone With The Wind was similar as was my first reading of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. I know it was mostly the length that allowed this to happen, but I finished this easily during my commute.

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The last pages were read in ‘Belle-style’. Nose in book, just enough aware of my surroundings to stop myself being run over on the way home but not too much as to not be able to concentrate on the final 10 pages. In the end, that’s how you want a book to make you feel.


So, where do I go from here? I’ve gone from three long books to two of the shortest on the list. There is a part of me that thinks I should try and mop up all the short ones now to try and raise my ‘score’ from 21 to a far more presentable number.

Then there is the over-riding part of me that thinks I should head straight for the longest novel on the list – In Search Of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Not only is this the longest novel in the Top 100 but it is regarded as the longest novel ever written. For the sake of context, it is 4 times longer than Lord of the Rings and over twice the length of War and Peace. 

I guess I feel that if I can conquer In Search Of Lost Time then there is no book too long for me to get through. If I had known about it before making my bucket list it would have probably been an item all of it’s much like Finnegans Wake or The Divine Comedy were.