Monthly Archives: October 2015

Notice of Absense


So, I’m getting married very soon and then going on an amazing Japanese honeymoon. Therefore I will not be posting any posts on here for a month. There will be some posts about the wedding and the honeymoon (since they will inevitably cross a few things off my lists), but those won’t be going up for a few months. The benefits of getting ahead eh?

Anyway, the posts will be starting up again on November 9th with some pictures of my awesome centrepiece since I am ludicrously proud of them.

Until then!



Good Eatin’: Lunch At Chez Pascal

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

There is a French restaurant that I pass everyday on the way to the train station called Chez Pascal. It is one of the highest rated restaurants in the area according to TripAdvisor and I have been meaning to visit there for well over a year… but you know how it is.

So one Sunday in June, we paid a visit and I have to say we were not disappointed. I would share a website – but they don’t have one. Instead here is a link to the TripAdvisor page.

Food items:  Escargot De Bourgogne,  Escargots au Beurre d’Ail, Roquefort

So, my first ‘insect’. I know that snails are technically molluscs so eating one of these is like eating scallops, mussels or even (technically) squid. But, these feel different somehow. Probably because I have accidentally stepped on and killed many of these in my time. Poor little blighters.

So this starter here, which belonged to the engagement partner,  is a three in one for the food list. The first being the type of snail used, the second being the fact that (as the menu showed) they were cooked in garlic butter and the third because it was topped off with a Roquefort sauce.

When it comes to food I am not squeamish, but I am also not unsqueamish. I was more than happy to pop one of these into my mouth here since they not presented here in their shells. Things might have been a little bit different otherwise.

To be honest, it was not as if I could make out any discernible taste from the snails. The only thing I could taste was garlic butter and blue cheese. Add to that the really tender and somewhat springy texture – this is something I would order for myself next time.

Food items: Frog and Pomodori Secchi

Why not go full stereotype and go for the frogs legs too whilst I am at it. These were a bit more weird for me since they look VERY much like a frog if you had severed him at the waist. It also didn’t help with all the hopping jokes that the server made since this was the last one out. They were pretty funny though.

So, the frogs legs themselves? I really hate to say this, but they did taste a lot like chicken. “Chicken of the pond” as my mum quipped. I mean, in terms of texture there was a definite resemblance. The taste was like chicken, but there was something a bit more salty there like fish – or maybe I am clutching at straws so I don’t give a stereotypical response.

Oh, and apparently pomodori secchi is just Italian for sundried tomatoes. I crossed this off ages ago, but here they are again. Woo.

Food item: Poulet Basquais

Basque-style chicken. According to the food book the way this is prepared does depend on whether it is from the Spanish Basque region or the French Basque region. I will assume, for obvious reasons, that this was more akin to the French side.

What this basically was a tenderised/somewhat flattened chicken in a tomato, basil and bell pepper sauce. It was really nice, but I do have to say that it felt a little bit more pedestrian after trying the frogs and snails.

Food item: Monkfish

Okay, so this was my mum’s dish. It was monkfish in a cream sauce with grapes and cherries. It lived up to the price (second most expensive thing on the specials) as it really looked the part.

In terms of taste, the monkfish is light and yet very meaty. A lot like cod really, just quite a bit denser when it comes to the flesh of the fish. It absorbed a lot of the flavours around it, which makes it a bit hard to find the base taste.

I am aware that, because of the newer book, I am going to be eating monkfish again. Only this time it needs to be wrapped in Parma ham. Bring it on.

Progress: 608/933

Good Eatin’: …And Now We’ve Passed 600

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Look at this! Thanks to some re-focussing and the addition of the new book things have really accelerated. 500 really was not long ago and now 600 has been met and passed.

To be honest, I was so close as I was writing this that I had my partner fish some of my ‘quick’ food items out of the cupboard so I could make it. Still, it all counts.

Food item: Dolmades

The sprint to 600 starts with a 35p stuffed vine leaf I bought on a trip to Borough Market. Another trip, a week after the one I just posted about. I thought it would be a lot less busy on a Friday, but nope it was pretty much the same.

The Dolma itself was gorgeous. I wish I had bought more than one to be honest. It was like rice, feta cheese and a mint pesto all mixed together and stuffed in a, fairy flavourless, vine leaf.

I used to avoid these if I ever saw them, never again.

Food item: Roman Artichoke

This was an interesting find, but according to the guy I talked to at the market this is the real deal, or at least as close to it as possible. Because of things I had to buy it straight away because I know the season of availability is a little bit brief.

I went home and cooked it almost immediately. Chopped off the stem, snipped the tops of the leaves and then boiled it with a dash of lemon juice. 45 minutes later I proceeded to rip off the leaves, dip it in Hollandaise sauce and then rip off the tender bits with my teeth.

By the time I reached the central choke it became incredibly obvious that the artichoke, like the thistle, has the ability to flower.

Pretty isn’t it? Well, the taste matches. The meaty bits of the leaves were creamy with a slight metallic taste whilst the heart (which was reached after scooping away the hairy parts) was tender and the best part by miles.

Food item: Morbier and Culatello Di Zibello

The Culatello di Zibello is one of the more expensive things that I have eaten – and I got one hell of a deal. This, apparently exclusive, ham was being sold for £14 per 100 grams. I asked the guy at the stall and he said the minimum amount they sell of any ham is 50g. I was ready to pay that much, but instead I searched through their off cut basket and found 113g of it for £5.90. What a score! I even got respect from the Italian man at the counter -telling me I had made an excellent choice. Muahaha.

The ham was gorgeous, maybe not worth all the money, but it was still gorgeous. The taste was a bit like Parma ham. A brilliant balance of salty, sweet, spicy, meaty and savoury. The big selling point was just how tender it was. The marbling of the fat meant there was a real melt in your mouth quality to it. Unlike other hams of this ilk, however, it did not get chewy as you chewed on it. It just got more and more tender.

Then there is the Morbier cheese. A really mild and fairly springy cheese. A lot like BabyBel in texture. The interesting thing of note is the line of ash between the two layers in the cheese. You couldn’t taste the ash, but it does make for an interesting visual as you cut into it. As with more cheese the taste got a bit stronger as you got closer to the round, but it was still remarkably mild.

Food item: Nasturtium

How much would you want one of these in a salad to pretty it up? Having tasted them I know I would really want to. The closest thing I can link the taste of these flowers to is rocket. There was an opening sweetness to these which gave away to pepper ones. Depending on the flower the ending pepper ones can be rather strong. I

Considering just how beautiful and delicate these are the flavour can really take you unawares. I think it would make for a good a condiment to an omelette and would be a nice play to offset the yellowy-whiteness of the egg.

Food item: Morel

The morel mushroom. Which is expensive to buy on its own, had already been sliced up and combined with chicken liver to make this divine terrine. To be honest the only time you could even tell that a mushroom was involved in the making too this terrine was when you reached a chunk of the morel.

To be honest, there was not a huge taste I could discern to this mushroom. It has a meaty texture, like most mushrooms, but the flavour itself was delicate. I can imagine it to be something easily overpowered by other flavours. What it did have, however was a persistent mushrooms aftertaste. A bit unusual there.

Food item: Swiss Chard

Wow, I have eaten a lot of pretty vegetables in this post. To be honest, I can not quite believe that these colours exist in nature for such a salad leaf. Now, I know there are plenty of ways to cook it, but I prefer to try a lot of these things raw if I have the opportunity,

The leaves themselves tasted a lot like spinach, but just a bit more bitter. The stems, were more like a bitter beetroot. Earthy, but still rather bitter. In small doses and when paired with tomatoes  I know I would like this in a salad. On it’s own? Not so much.

Food item: Chicken Korma

Something a bit different here. One of the more standard curries out there. So standard that I know the local Wetherspoons has had their own version. I have had a lot of different versions of this . Mainly because, as a  child, I was yet to train my spice tolerance up. There are a number of consistencies though which I always enjoyed – creaminess, nuttiness and sweetness.

Food item: Broad Beans and Pork Scratchings

So here we are. Broad beans as number 600. In a snack pack no less. The way that they are presented here they remind me a lot of edamame. I always imagined something a bit more earthy and less moreish. Might actually pick these up for a afternoon work snack at some point.

And then there is pork scratchings. The quintessential pub snack. Honestly… they can keep them. I like pork cracking when it is served with gravy, but these were just greasy. Very greasy. It made sure that I was very much aware that what I was eating was fat. Just fat. I could not, in good conscience eat more than one. That and they just didn’t taste too nice.

Progress: 601/933

Oscar Bait: The Lost Weekend

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 76/88

(Note – The 1001 Movies book just went through its yearly update. So I have had to adjust my number down by one)

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 441/1007Title: The Lost Weekend
Director: Billy Wilder
Year: 1945
Country: USA

First I need to say, wow. I am hot off the heels of watching this and… wow.

The more I see of Billy Wilder’s, the more I move towards him becoming my favourite director of all time. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, The Apartment the list just goes on and on. I don’t think I he’ll get to the level of admiration that I have for Miyazaki but he’s damned impressive nonetheless.

When I went into watching this I pretty much knew everything about the story of this film. It’s one of those really important Code era movies that pushed the envelope when it came to the role of alcohol in a feature film. It is also the case where, thanks to the autobiographical nature of the source material, you know that there will be a quasi-happy ending.

To be honest I expected the worst of the ending. I hate it when films of this era pull an ending out of their arse just to suit the whims of the censors. The thing is, it didn’t ring false at all. During his 3-4 day bender, Don (Ray Milland in one of the best performances I have ever seen) reaches rock bottom. He steals, he ends up in an alcoholic ward, he hallucinates a mouse being savaged by a (plastic) bat. He even reaches the point of desperation where taking his own life becomes the only foreseeable way out.

In many ways, a film like this is as applicable (if not more applicable) to life as we know it now. Emotionally it still has that punch, it’s just that if it were to be made today there would need to be more of a visceral shock factor to make sure it has the same impact. No longer can a powerhouse performance be weighty enough, one he’d probably have to vomit blood or be punched by a hooker.

A film like The Lost Weekend goes to prove that whilst, yes, sometimes the Oscars can be a little bit weird in who they give Best Picture to (who were they kidding with Tom Jones) they can still award it to an absolute cracker.