Category Archives: Food

A goal for 2011.

I’m not a fan of resolutions, they often seem like a reason to just harp on about things you wish you’d do, rather than real goals set with a thought. But it is new year, and this does seem like as good a time as any to do this.

I’m going to live without supermarkets – or at least, I’m going to try. I’m not going to boycott anything, nor am I going to go out of my way to make my life more difficult than it need to be – but i am going to be making an effort to use the shops that are on my doorstep. I’m hoping this will make me think about what I’m eating, cook more often from scratch and to get to know more people in the community I live in rather than the faceless self-check out machines that are increasingly de jour in my local big brand supermarkets.

I do however live in the real world, I’m not expecting this to be a 100% successful experiment initially, but I am going to be making a real effort, and hopefully saving some money along the way to – indeed I hope to save so much money that on the nights when traditionally a splurge of expensive ‘luxury’ ready meals might have been the order of the day that I instead use that money to wander down to a cafe or restaurant instead – once again, doing my bit for the community that I live in.

Well that was 2010

2010, what a year – highs and lows of amazing and awful proportion. On balance it’s a year I think I’m going to want to forget – not however that I’m going to want to forget the lessons from…

I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do have goals that I review weekly, monthly and annually – most of them are horribly mundane: my way of making sure the tasks of the day whether work or domestic get done – others are less so.

So in this coming year I want to

  • Settle down into a house that we intend to stay in for some time and looking at renting a place in Germany that we can consider a second home
  • I want to travel more, this means putting the car on the road and ensuring there’s a ready pot of ferry, petrol, hotel and food money stashed away for last minute urges to be on the continent.
  • I want to re-evaluate how and where I work, if there are new challenges now is the time to take them.
  • I want to make as much money as I did in 2008/9 – I know what I need to do this, so I just need to get on and do it.
  • I want to eat better stuff: I’ve had it with being a slave to the supermarket, from now on I’m going to buy local and regularly rather than in a warehouse weekly.
  • I want to digitise my whole audio collection – I’ve got tonnes of music on CDs, Tapes, Reels, Records and MiniDiscs, I want them all at the click of a button on my Mac.
  • I want to write a book – I’ve been thinking about it for ages, I know what I want to write about, christ I’m an expert in it! So I need to dedicate some time to making it happen.
  • I want to DJ more too – you’ll see a broadcaster page appearing soon with a showreel and links to programmes and shows I’m presenting or producing.

This isn’t a list of resolutions, and it’s not really a blog post, more a note to myself in a place I know I’m going to have to look at.

I’ll have a water butt please!

Having been fortunate enough to have spent a good deal of my formative years in continental Europe, there are some things about dining out in Europe that you come to take for granted. One is that the table will be brought ice cold fresh water in a bottomless jug as standard. Next, bread will be brought to the table and will most likely be topped up as courses arrive and depart, and third that a tip is recognised in most Restaurants not as an extra charge, but as a reward for a decent service throughout the evening.

So it’s not surprising that dining out in the UK irks me so, because I’ve yet to find a venue that can get all three of these key areas right every time. Bread doesn’t bother me as much because, frankly in the UK, bread is a lost cause – at the cheaper end of the market the bread won’t be worth eating and once you’ve passed the £40 a head mark you normally only have to ask if it’s not already provided.

Tipping and Water however are two totally different animals, and they are the things that are almost guaranteed to irritate me when eating out in the UK, and of those, water is always the first thing to raises my hackles in a restaurant. Now I’m a businessman, I’ve run enough businesses to understand the mark up and the important of linked sales, so I understand that it’s important to get people into the booze as quickly as possible, but for crying out loud, at least start with a jug of ice water on the table!

In London I’m more than happy to just drink Thames water, chilled with a few cubes of ice chucked in, and maybe if I’m lucky a lime – I don’t want to buy a bottle of water because frankly the green part of me balks at the idea of paying for water that’s been hauled around by truck, bottled water often tastes insipid, and the expensive and pointless packaging leaves me agog, especially when we have some of the best tasting tap water available in Europe straight from the tap here in the capital.

So I’m always the first of the group to ask for a jug or pitcher of ice water, unfortunately I’m often left frothing at the mouth in rage when having asked for a jug of water all that’s delivered (usually late) is a single tiny glass. Now this has become a bit of a joke between my friends and I, but it really does wind me up; and in one particularly group of restaurants I’ve started to make exaggerated ‘Andrew Marr’ like arm gestures to denote just-how-big-a-jug I’d actually like delivered to my table, to the extent that if they delivered to my specifications I’d be drinking from a water butt. Of course this is all to no avail as four out of the five times I’ll still be left with my tiny glass (that they ‘forget’ to refill), and even then I’m lucky if that’s delivered much before the first course is finished. It seems that restaurants in the UK fail to understand that a good proportion of diners would be more amenable (and in my case almost guaranteed) to buying a bottle, or indeed several bottles, of wine if the establishment delivers a jug of water without fuss or bother of having to ask for it – maybe if this message were tattooed somewhere on my forehead I might have more luck?

As if they want to add insult to injury having not delivered water or bread to the table without some huge fuss being made of it with shrugged shoulders and looks of amazement that anyone should want to drink water that’s not fresh from a bottle, most establishments nowadays will automatically expect a tip, however dreadful the service may have been, and I dislike this approach for a multitude of reasons: first and foremost because of the lack of information about ‘service charges’ – I simply don’t believe that service charges and tips go together, especially not when the restaurants are so cagey about explaining where the money goes, I take particular umbrage with the idea of paying the restaurant for the privilege of eating in it when the service charge doesn’t go to the waiting staff directly, not to mention service charges being applied even when the service has been appalling all night; but that’s just a mere irritation compared to what really rocks my boat when it comes to tipping: the one thing that is guaranteed to set me off like a veritable Catherine wheel in the middle of a restaurant is tip expectation, and I don’t mean the smiley face on the bottom of the bill even after the service & food have been utterly lousy, no…

The thing that will set me off explosively is the bare-faced cheek of some London waiting staff who, on bringing you the card machine, place your card carefully in the bottom of the device and punch up the total into the handset before pressing the ‘gratuity – yes’ button just as they pass it to you to enter your pin. The sheer cheek of it is beyond reproach, and it’ll always end in the manager being dragged kicking and screaming from the darkness to my table to explain, apologise and refund the entire drinks bill, and that’s nothing in the scary restaurant patron stakes compared to my other half who I half suspect enjoys clipping his tones as he re-educates a manager in the intricacies of basic restaurant management.

So come on UK restauranteurs! It’s not rocket science. Stop being so tight, start treating your customers with the respect they deserve, give them the complimentary items, serve them efficiently and bill them fairly and believe it or not they’ll not only spend more, but they’ll most likely return more, recommend you more and tip more.

Winter Urges

As the nights are drawing in I’m finding myself going into winter mode, I find myself being drawn to books, finding an urge to cook again and looking forward to the joys of cold grey days, brisk winter walks and all the things that remind me why I love winter so much more than summer.

I’ve got a definite hankering to get things out of storage, which we’ll hopefully be able to do in the not too distant future, it’ll be nice to have my books, big sofa and all my gadgets back, it’s amazing how such simple things as curling up on a sunday morning to flick through a recipe book or just unwinding with a faithful old friend of a book can be. All being well things should be in a state where we can take stuff out of storage in the next 4 or 5 weeks, all fingers crossed – if they’re not I may have to just go out and buy more books to satisfy my urges; it’s all very well having the internet to read things with, but it’s not the same tactile experience as a book.

I’ve also got the urge to do some more urbexing, there’s an old air force base beckoning and I’d love to go and take a peeky around a certain asylum before Prescott & Co. get their way and let the place crumble to the ground making way for “much needed key worker housing”.

Foodies

Mmmm, healthy – one packet of prawn cocktail crisps for lunch, oh I am a temple of healthy eating aren’t I? I’m desperately trying to do the right thing when it comes to eating, but nine times out of ten I’m far to lazy to bother. I don’t have time to go home and cook myself something healthy for lunch today, and I’ve not got time to queue for the bank, so it’s a toss up between eating out, which is expensive, or using the spare change I have in my pocket… I’ve got another 78 pence left, If I’m careful I could run to a mars bar as well?

The thing is I love cooking, there is no place I’m happier than experimenting in the kitchen, everything from toad in the hole with wine poached sausages and creamy mashed potatoes with a selection of winter vegetables to spicy lasagna with home made garlic loaves, I love it all, and at the moment you can’t keep me away from my brand new kitchen as I’ll happily slave over the cooker for hours in order to get the meal I want… but having said that, it does mean that when it comes to working lunches I sometimes feel very lost… I could bring sandwiches to work, but that would mean bringing a bag, and at the moment that’s something I don’t do, I could do Pret and Bengy’s for lunch, but I’d have to remortgage the house if I wanted to get something filling, or I could wander onto Old Compton Street and get something from Dukes Bar or La Creperie but that would mean going out in the rain: and I can’t be bothered to do that either…. I think it’s time to start hiring a skivvy to get my lunch for me!

Domino’s and Correct Change

Dominos DriverAre domino’s incapable of giving the correct change? Surely if you order something that’s worth £8.10 then in my world I normally expect to get £1.90 in change, but no, you get £1.00 exactly from Domino’s! But wait a minute £1.90 is almost £2.00; if it was only a 10p or 20p difference I wouldn’t mind at all, and as it is I don’t mind to much at losing 90p in change, but it’s the principle that’s at stake here – so bear with me. Normally I’ll pay with plastic, but on the odd occasion I’ve paid with cash, I’ve not once got the right change from Domino’s at the door.

Now if I were to pitch up at a Domino’s branch and order something over the counter worth £8.10 would they really let me take the goods if I only coughed up £8.00 because I’ve only got pound coins? I somehow think not, so why therefore do they expect me to not want all my change back when they deliver goods to my house. If I do pay in cash at the door I normally tell people to keep the change anyway, but I do like to be given the option of telling them to keep it, rather than them simply walking away with it… That’s theft in England don’t you know.

Sick of Pizza

PizzaI’m really looking forward to going back to work, the Christmas holiday’s can be so stupidly boring once christmas is out of the way, especially when you’re on your own a lot. I’ve had a fair few things to do however, so i’m attempting to keep myself busy.

I’ve got a terrible craving at the moment for mashed potato, (as I can’t make cook in my current abode) I really want to cook something warm and filling like bangers and mash, but I can’t so I’m going to sulk and order something from Domino’s – I cannot even begin to express how sick to death I am of pizza, I’m not going to eat pizza for as long as I possibly can as soon as I’m into my new house.