Although the enthusiasm for making and sharing ice cream has waned somewhat during the winter, several of you still joined me in celebrating a year of BSFIC by choosing one (or more) of the previous 12 themes of the challenge.

 

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Ozzy from Light/ Bites shared a refreshing Blood Orange Slushy, taking inspiration from April’s theme of sorbets, granitas, shaved ice desserts, slushies and spooms. Combining orange zest, pureed flesh, some grated ginger, half a vanilla pod, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom and Demerara sugar, he created a mix that he turned into a sorbet the old-fashioned way – removing it from the freezer at intervals to break up the chunks. As the finished result wasn’t as solid as he’d intended, he called it a slushie and served it with pieces of chocolate brownie.

 

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FoodyCat Alicia also used seasonal citrus, this time Seville oranges, in her Seville Orange Ice Cream, enjoyed as part of a celebratory wedding anniversary meal and served in lovely homemade brandy snaps. Although she was happy with the flavour of her ice cream, she felt the texture wasn’t quite right so has provided two versions of the recipe, one as she made it and an adjusted one she reckons will work better. Best of all, she met three of the past themes – June’s fruit, July’s condensed milk and December’s booze!

 

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Claire from Under The Blue Gum Tree really went to town, recreating a dessert from The Restaurant at St Paul’s in London but adding her own twists too. Her Honey Ice Cream and Gingerbread Sandwich looks absolutely stunning! She sandwiched a custard-based honey ice cream between two layers of gingerbread cake and topped the whole lot off with a decadent ginger-spiked dark chocolate ganache. I have to say it really does look both professional and utterly delicious and a real crowd-pleaser.

 

Espresso and Baileys Ice Cream

Michael from Me, My Food & I made a tasty Espresso and Baileys Ice Cream which fit into both the condensed milk and booze themes of July and December. His original influence was a Nigella recipe which he adapted according to the ingredients he could find. An obliging friend sourced the instant espresso powder, Baileys was substituted for the original coffee liqueur and Michael finished off the presentation by scattering crushed coffee biscuits over the top. Decadent, quick and easy!

 

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I love the styling that Hannah from Corner Cottage Bakery has created for the photos of her Damson Gin Ice Cream. As the queen of leftovers, she was determined to make good use of the alcohol-soaked damsons that were a side product of her damson gin production. She pureed the boozy fruit and mixed it into a rich custard base, meeting three previous challenge themes – custard-bases, fruit and booze from February, June and December. I love the pretty pink colour – it looks delicious!

 

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Having been sent an enormous sample box of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, I was determined to include these in a simple but colourful ice cream. I took the lazy option and used the no-churn recipe I discovered for July’s condensed milk theme (for which I made a honeycomb ice cream slice). To my surprise, the jelly bean makers themselves commented on my Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Ice Cream post – apparently every time they’ve experimented with incorporating the product into an ice cream the beans have gone rock hard. That mine retained some chew confounded them – I posit that commercial ice creams have to be frozen to lower temperatures than those made in a domestic freezer.

 

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Chloë is the author of Gannet and Parrot, one of the more unusual blog names I’ve come across! Deciding that vanilla ice cream was too boring, she suddenly remembered the spiced lassi in her fridge and wondered what it might be like frozen. An Iced Spiced Lassi froyo, if you will. Her idea fit best into the spices theme from September 2012. Although she felt the texture of her first attempt wasn’t right – too powdery and not the right balance between sweet and tart – she loved the flavours of the spicy yoghurt and condensed milk. The toasted cumin, fresh and crystallised ginger, green chilli all came through clearly. I hope she’ll give the idea another go, as it sounds like it has great potential to me.

 

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Julia from Something Missing loves making ice cream but was becoming frustrated with all the leftover egg whites she didn’t know how to use. Luckily, a chance viewing of a food show on telly gave her the inspiration to make an amazing Chocolate and Hazelnut Egg White Ice Cream. The technique involves folding Italian meringue into whipped cream and is a no churn ice recipe. It took a little effort but Julia was very happy with the results. Another way of using egg whites is to made yourself some spoom – essentially a sorbet mixed with Italian meringue!

 

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When Monica of Smarter Fitter came to visit us recently, she was full of excitement about a Holy Mole Weekend of cooking she was planning – a feast of all things Mexican including tamales, mole sauce, black beans, salsa and for dessert, rich chocolate brownies. Thinking about ice cream that would reflect the theme and go well with chocolate, I suggested something along the lines of the avocado ice cream I made last summer. Monica opted for an Avocado Ice Cream recipe by ice cream guru David Lebovitz, liking the inclusion of sour cream and lime, which balanced beautifully with her Mexican flavours. And of course, her recipe fit June’s fruit theme perfectly!

 

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Thank you to all the intrepid winter ice cream makers who joined me for this challenge. Look out for the April challenge, coming very soon.

Mar 282013
 

It’s not unusual for me to receive invitations to dine at London restaurants with a view to reviewing them on Kavey Eats. A recent invitation contained an unusual twist – Arnaud Bignon, the chef and partner at a The Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair wanted a group of us to taste a selection of dishes and provide feedback to narrow down which five would make it onto April’s tasting menu.

I don’t know how much influence our feedback had in reality. There was certainly one dish we all discussed and fed back on (in a less than positive fashion), but certainly we weren’t grilled for our thoughts on most of the courses in any structured or coherent way. Still, it was a great opportunity to sample Arnaud’s Michelin-starred cooking and was a convivial evening.

There were 8 courses on the printed menus we were given, but first three amuse bouche were served.

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On the small spoons were liquid spheres representing a caesar salad. The flavours were great, though I’d have liked a little raw apple to give a crunch, and a touch more parmesan than the tiny morsel on top.

The mushroom meringues had the most incredible texture and flavour and were probably my single favourite course of the entire meal. They melted away so fast on the tongue but left behind an intensely earthy hit of fungi. It took all my restraint not to “accidentally” steal other peoples’!

The third mouthful was rather dull next to the other two. Prawns with a peanut coating were pleasant didn’t thrill.

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Cornish crab, mint jelly, cauliflower, granny smith apple, curry

The presentation of this dish was striking – and the bowl itself created crockery envy in some at the table. The crab was hidden underneath that green jelly layer and was tasty and fresh. The mint taste was a little too faint but certainly there. In the foam on top, the apple came through clearly. I couldn’t detect (on the palate) either the cauliflower or the curry.

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Foie gras, strawberry, hibiscus, tomato, ginger

I don’t think there was one person at the table who liked the various sweet red accompaniments to what was a very fine slice of foie gras. The strawberry liquid was far too sweet, cloying and overwhelming. The tomato actively clashed in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible until I tasted it. I adore foie gras and order it often, and have to confess that this was the worse foie gras dish I’ve ever tasted.

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Line-caught sea bass, yuzu, chlorophyll herbs, polenta

The seabass and yuzu sauce were superb. The fish was perfectly cooked, soft and tasty and the sauce provided a perfect creamy citrus lift. I didn’t really get the green polenta – the “chlorophyll” was clearly basil so I don’t know why it wasn’t just named so – the flavour was alright but it didn’t do much for me at all.

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John Dory, heirloom beetroot, vadouvan, onion seedling

Another really excellent piece of fish, cooked just as it should be. To my surprise, I loved fish with the sweet earthiness of the beetroot. I didn’t really follow what vadouvan was when our waiter briefly mentioned it but Wiki tells me it’s “a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a derivative of Indian curry blend with a French influence”. Unfortunately, the French tendency to tone down spices to the point of homeopathy seems to have occurred and the spice flavours didn’t come through at all.

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Yorkshire lamb, aubergine, sesame seeds, red spring onion, soya sauce

The lamb was delicious and tender and so full of flavour it was hogget- or mutton-like on the palate. The aubergine was soft and silky but not greasy. I liked all the flavours very much. The slick of sauce poured onto the plates at the table was so thin it ran immediately to one side of the plates, revealing the lay of the table and looking rather unsightly. I realise “jus” is still more trendy, but a little thickening into a proper sauce would have made far better visual impact, certainly.

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Pigeon, cevennes onion, rhubarb, almond

I know I wasn’t alone in being surprised to be served poultry after the red meat, though I do appreciate that pigeon is gamier and redder than many birds are. The pigeon breast was pleasant, as was the rhubarb an onion. The little leg on the bone was dreadful, wrapped as it was in a surprisingly thick and flacid skin. I liked the almond crunch. More thin and bitty juice though.

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Pineapple, pine nut, lavender, lemon

The pineapple and pine nut were hidden under a light foam and lemon sorbet (and the pretty but not-so-pleasant-in-the-mouth petals). It was all delicious and I liked the range of textures very much.

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Orange, saffron, date, filo pastry

This was a super finish. The orange sorbet was probably one of the best I’ve ever tasted; it made me sing Kia-Ora, too orangey for crows! I liked how it was served on a bed of crunchy meringue for textural contrast. The filo pastry with saffron cream was delicate and crunched satisfyingly as I pushed down with my spoon. And oh, the orange segments with tiny slivers of date and mint leaves delighted too. Everything on the plate worked separately and together, creating a complete and happiness-inducing dish!

 

There were wine matches too, but I can’t comment on them. I asked for dessert wine instead, and was given three different ones, all of which I enjoyed.

Of the restaurant itself, I particularly liked the secret-garden approach, hidden away in a quiet but very very expensive residential mews. Setting and service was traditional French formal, though hard to assess at this kind of special event.

The tasting menu is listed at £90, though obviously we were served more courses than are usually included.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of The Greenhouse.

 

Bincho Yakitori has been on my radar and mental wish list to visit since it opened a few years ago but it’s taken the current love affair with Japan to give me the impetus to actually make it there. It is Inspired by Japanese izakayas, bars in which a menu of snack items such as grilled skewers of meat, fish and vegetables and other small dishes are served alongside an extensive range of booze – in this case, beers, sakes, wines and whiskies.

The atmosphere at Bincho Soho is both less raucous and less smoky than it usually is in the real deal izakayas in Japan but it’s comfortable and service is friendly.

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In pride of place on the menu is the yakitori section – grilled skewers of chicken (and other poultry); tori means chicken or bird; yaki describes a fried or grilled cooking technique. Listed are various different cuts of chicken such as wings, breast, oysters and livers as well as tsukune (minced chicken meatballs) and quail eggs. Next come all the other grilled skewers of meat, fish and vegetables – these are called kushiyaki; kushi can mean either comb or skewer, which makes me smile because I visualise tiny tasty morsels stuck onto every finger of a comb, like hula hoops on my fingers… At Bincho the skewers look like tiny wooden swords… more of which later. There are rice dishes, sides and salads and a few yakimono – larger grilled items such as whole sardines, salmon steaks and jumbo prawns that are not cooked or served on skewers. A few sauces, desserts and ochazuke (savoury last dishes) complete the menu.

We arrived early for our 6 o’clock booking and were able to request seating at the counter, from where we could watch the chefs cooking at the imported Japanese grill. The restaurant takes its name from Binchō-tan, a unique white charcoal made from oak wood and prized by traditional Japanese grill chefs because it burns for a long period at an even temperature and gives off very little smoke.

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Our drinks orders were swiftly taken and magic words were uttered: Chicken hearts. And Chicken skin. The first was on the specials menu; the second is one of the extra parts that are often available but in limited stock. Hell yes, to both please; an easy start to our choices.

The rest we ordered from the menu, quickly advised after reeling off several items to pause there and order more later. Which we did because we’re greedy bastards.

Note that all skewers are priced per skewer but require a minimum order of two. If you’re worried that will make it difficult for a lone diner to try much, you can always opt for The Seven Samurai – seven single skewers of chicken and spring onion, pork belly, salmon, chicken wings, asparagus, a tiger prawn and shiitake mushrooms. Like I said, the skewers certainly look like swords..

It wasn’t long before plates started to arrive.

Chicken Hearts (£2 per skewer) were exactly as expected, a generous 5 per skewer and beautifully hearty, meaty and bouncy.

Thick pieces of Chicken Skin (£2 per skewer) , threaded onto skewers in scrunched folds, were grilled until crunchy and soft at once – utterly incredible – but, as I learned with my second order of the same, they are best served and eaten immediately, as that crunch fades away within minutes.

As any cook knows, Sori (chicken oysters, £2.30 per skewer) are the very best meat on the bird – two plump round morsels of dark meat located at the base of the thighs and the cook’s perk in many households. Here, two were served per skewer, with a little piece of skin stretched over each. Delicious.

Tomatobacon (cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon, £1.55 per skewer) went down particularly well with Pete. For those who think they don’t sound very Japanese, they’re definitely common on kushiyaki menus in Japan and popular too!

Shishito Japanese peppers (£2.35 per skewer) were also generous, with 4 to the skewer, and provided a welcome vegetal note against all the protein. They’re much like the small green peppers you often find in Spanish places.

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A Yuba Salad (£5.65) of spinach leaves was enjoyable but not what I was expecting. I’d hoped for more obvious yuba content, but the tiny smoked pellets of bean curd skin might just as well have been more bacon. A good point is that the salad had been properly tossed before serving and the dressing evenly coated all of it, rather than just the top few leaves, which is so often the case.

Nasu Miso Dengaku ((£3.95) was lovely, full of smoky sweetness, but a tiny portion for the price.

Uzurabacon (quail eggs wrapped in bacon, £1.80 per skewer) were good, though not as full of flavour as the tomatoes.

Tori Yaki Meshi (chicken and mushroom rice) was fabulous. Although the portion was a little on the small side for £4.95, it was full of large pieces of chicken, lots of mushroom and full of savoury umami.

Fat slices of Eringi (king oyster mushroom) were full of flavour, though £2 a skewer for just one slice per skewer felt cheeky.

From the Yakimono section of the menu, Sake Teriyaki (£5.75) was a large, thickly cut slice of tender salmon, beautifully cooked to give tender flesh and crispy crackly skin. The sauce was sweet and delicious, but not overly sickly.

After all the great savoury, I probably shouldn’t have bothered with dessert. The Layered Banana Cake (£5.75) served with green tea ice cream didn’t hit the spot. I did like that the cake wasn’t sickly sweet, but found it dense and bland. Pete took over and said it grew on him, though neither of us ate much of it. The ice cream was OK, but suffered in comparison with the superior quality of Shoryu‘s matcha ice cream – quality in, quality out and Shoryu clearly use superior ingredients here.

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More successful were our tastings of sake; ordering the Kyoto Fushimizu at £7 for 150 ml and the Akashi-tai Dai-Ginjo, at £13.50 the most expensive on the menu, we appreciated being able to compare them.

Both were poured into the glasses and allowed to spill over into the bamboo wood cups. We were encouraged to smell and sip them from the wood, which is said to enhance both aromas and flavours.

To my surprise, despite being the second cheapest on the menu, the Kyoto Fushimizu was really smooth, with none of the raw alcohol roughness of some cheap sakes I’ve tried. Made with Kyoto spring water, the menu described it as flowery with a hint of mint. No mint for me, but I’d agree with the floral tag.

For me, the Akashi-tai Dai-Ginjo had a definite hint of aniseed to its flavour profile, which meant I didn’t enjoy it as much.

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From our vantage point, it was fun to glance up from our chatter (agreeing that we’re retuning to Japan, rather appropriately, and talking about possible itineraries) and watch the grill chefs at work – a focused choreography of renewing charcoal, carefully placing new skewers, checking those already cooking and whipping them onto a plate at just the right moment. A sprinkle of salt and wedges of lemon were added by the chef guarding the pass before the waiting staff quickly sped the plates to eagerly waiting diners.

Of course, sitting by the pass meant being served our skewers hot and fresh.

We took our time and stayed a couple of hours, ordering quite a feast during that time, but Bincho would also suit those looking for somewhere for a quick bite, or light snack.

Our bill came to £97 and divided into a little under £60 for food, a little under £30 for drinks and a little over a tenner for service.

 

Bincho Yakitori on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Mar 252013
 

I collect eggcups. I’m quite discerning though. At least a 100 came off the shelves a couple of years ago (with the intention of selling them on ebay, though that remains one of the many many things on my To Do list). The ones that remain crowd the shelves such that there’s very little room for any new ones to join them.

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But at their Easter preview this year, Hotel Chocolat gave me Beau Bunny’s Breakfast – a milk chocolate egg in a rather lovely two-ended porcelain egg cup which definitely makes the collection. Both egg and egg cup are decorated with images of the dapper Beau Bunny, Hotel Chocolat’s Easter 2013 branding. It’s inspired by dandy “Beau” Brummell, credited with inventing the men’s suit, a style often referred to as dandyism.

This rather grown up character makes for some very elegant packaging; I much prefer it to the usual cute bunnies and chicks.

The range contains most of last year’s favourites (including Egg & Chips and Egg Soldiers, boxes of Egglets and Hotel Chocolat’s trademark extra thick eggs). I particularly liked some of the new Egglet flavours such as almond praline with honey, salt and pepper praline, pecan praline and a mandarin one I’ve forgotten the name of and indeed the whole box went down well in our house, with particular praise for the lemon egglet. The salted caramel egg sandwich was also demolished very quickly.

As is usually the case, there are Easter treats at a wide range of prices from £1.95 for little chocolate lollipops to £70 for their largest egg, the Ostrich, extra thick and filled with chocolates.

 

Kavey Eats received samples from the Hotel Chocolat Easter range.

 

With ever rising populations and land pressure, I’m not being controversial when I state that we need to reduce the amount of meat in our diets and increase the volume of grain and vegetables we eat.

But for those of us who love eating meat, this is easier said than done.

There are two ways to do this: the first is to use smaller portions of meat in each meal, such as a 50 grams of bacon used to give flavour and texture to a pasta dish or a fresh vegetable salad with a handful of leftover roast chicken or a stroganoff with lots of mushrooms and only a little steak; the second way is to balance a couple of meat-heavy meals a week with several vegetarian ones. I tend to waiver between these, and don’t eat as many vegetarian meals as I should, which is a shame as I adore tofu and enjoy cooking our home-grown vegetables.

If you opt for the second approach then, budget permitting, it makes a lot of sense to enjoy the best quality meat you can afford – a little of the good stuff rather than a lot of the mediocre.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Alex Renton says:

Lamb is a green dream: the most gentle, ecologically, of all the farmed meats we eat. There is no animal more naturally-raised – it’s all free range and the feed just grows at their feet. Sheep don’t need water in the vast quantities cattle require and farming them is in itself a form of recycling: they graze hills and marginal land, recovering nutrients from poor grass and weeds other livestock won’t eat.

The land that will support one cow and calf can take as many as seven ewes and their lambs. And the grassy downs of modern England look as they do largely because of grazing sheep.

The lamb we produce in Britain is spectacularly good. Our climate seems well suited, both in terms of landscape and weather and the resulting meat is a delight.

A couple of months ago, I was sent a selection box of organic Welsh lamb by Graig Farm. Based in Mochdre in Montgomeryshire, the farm has been run by the Rees family since the 1940’s and has been certified as organic since 1999. Jonathan Rees is committed to producing great food “without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, growth promoting drugs, routine use of antibiotics, and the large amount of additives often used in ‘non-organic’ methods”. Their sheep and cattle graze in grass, clover and herb pastures and their pigs are able to forage in the woods. Ten years ago, they built a processing plant on site, and do all the butchery and processing themselves at the farm.

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Delivery was straightforward. The meat was neatly packed in a large polystyrene box and kept nicely cooled with ice packs, however I’d have preferred more ecologically-friendly packaging options such as the British sheep-wool insulation that Paganum use.

My box contained 2 half lamb legs, 2 lamb leg steaks, 4 lamb loin chops, 1 boned & rolled lamb shoulder, 2 lamb chump chops and 1 rack of lamb, all organic, of course. This box is priced at £89.

People often dismiss spending the extra on organic with complaints that organic produce tastes no difference to non-organic. In many cases, that’s true. But there are a host of other reasons to consider organic, including the environmental impact of pesticides and fertilisers, the fact that organic farms are far friendlier to wildlife and, on a more selfish note, the vastly reduced use of additives. And farmers who can’t resort to the easy option of pumping their animals full of drugs focus much more strongly on keeping them healthy by more natural means. That added care and attention often does make itself evident in the taste. Of course, there are regulated controls on feed too, which also have an impact on the final product.

Every cut of Graig Farm lamb we’ve eaten has been absolutely superb. The meat is tender but not mushy, the flavour is sweet and rich, and there’s enough fat running through to keep the meat moist as it cooks. I really could not be happier with the quality of the meat.

For the lamb loin chops, I made a very simple marinade and then cooked the chops in a hot oven for about 25 minutes.

 

Garam Masala Marinated Lamb Loin Chops

For the marinade, I first combined 4 bay leaves, a piece of cinnamon bark about an inch wide and long, 1 brown cardamom pod and a couple of small green ones, 6 peppercorns and 3 cloves. These were powdered using a spice grinder and then mixed into approximately two cups of full fat yoghurt. I marinated the chops for a couple of hours before cooking.

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Discount Code

Try Graig Farm organic Welsh lamb (or any other meat such as beef and pork) for yourself with a special discount code for Kavey Eats readers:

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The code gives you 20% off orders over £50 and also includes free delivery. It’s valid until June 30th 2013 and can be used three times per household. Of course, you can pass the code on to friends and family, if they’d like to place an order for themselves.

If you haven’t decided what to have for your Easter Sunday roast, get an order in fast for a superb joint of lamb. The boned rolled shoulder was gorgeous roasted with garlic and rosemary, and the leftovers made wonderful hoisin lettuce wraps and a delicious ragu with pasta.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box of organic lamb from Graig Farm.

Mar 222013
 

This gal has been wanting to visit Five Guys Burgers and Fries for donkey’s years.

Recently, I spent a few days Massachusetts for work. When the US team leader suggested we go there for our last lunch of the week  I nodded and grinned so enthusiastically I think I startled him!

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We grabbed a table, and a few little trays of peanuts – they’re complimentary and you help yourself from a huge bin just inside the door.

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Ordering was fast – I hardly had time to read the options before my turn at the counter came up.

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I chose a regular burger with pickle relish, pickles, mushrooms and grilled onions, the smallest portion offered of plain (rather than Cajun) fries and a regular soft drink. It came to just over $10 and I couldn’t finish it, though I enjoyed trying!

A nice touch is that all the toppings are included and you can choose as many of them as you like, right up to every single one, though I think that’d overload the burger so much it’d be impossible to eat!

Drinks are self-service from a machine. Your number is called when your food is ready to collect.

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As I expected, the burger was good. Very good. Really, very very good. Two meaty, juicy beef patties, generous portions of my chosen toppings and a sesame bun which just about held together to the end, though it was a close thing. A tasty, tasty burger!

Fries are served in cups but all of us found at least as many loose in the bags as in the (filled) cups. One or two cups between all five of us would have been plenty, though the rest were taken back for hungry colleagues at the office!

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Five Guys isn’t glamorous. Five Guys isn’t gourmet. Five Guys isn’t fancy.

It’s simple, greasy, comforting fast food done really well and I loved it!

Mar 202013
 

Camden High Street, the stretch between Camden and Mornington Crescent stations, suffers a dearth of decent places to eat.

Back in the late ‘90s – early ‘00s, I worked in the beautiful “Black Cat Cigarette Building” opposite Mornington Crescent station, more formally known as Greater London House. It was once a cigarette factory owned by Carreras and the two sleek bronze statues of black cats that flanked the entrance reflected the logo of their main brand, Craven A. The cats had disappeared by the time I started working there, but were re-possessed and returned to their original spots in a huge refurbishment that took place while I was there. That’s when they restored the pretty Art Deco paint colours too.

When looking for somewhere decent to eat out, my colleagues and I rotated between El Parador (still going strong), Café Delancey (long since closed), Pizza Punani (yes really, and no it didn’t last long), two rather excellent local sandwich caffs (both gone too) and a couple of pubs (which don’t even have the same names anymore). There were a few places that were so bad we avoided them altogether, even when we sometimes grew a little bored of the ones that were good enough.

I haven’t been back much since I left in 2002 and when I have it’s mostly been to El Parador, which is still a lovely tapas restaurant, run by the same team as it was back then.

Recently, I received an invitation to visit The Forge & Foundry in Camden. Strictly speaking, these are two distinct entities – The Forge being a music and performance venue and The Foundry being a restaurant and bar. As soon as I saw the address, I knew they were in the location of my old favourite, Café Delancey and was keen to see what had become of the place.

The Forge is a not-for-profit organisation opened in 2009 by musicians Adam and Charlotte Caird. They were keen to create an intimate venue specially designed with natural acoustics for live music. It hosts small concerts and other performances and is also available to book for rehearsals, recordings and other art-based activities.

Also in the same property is The Foundry, a restaurant and bar that is connected to the performance space by a an airy glazed courtyard. The courtyard boasts a beautiful living wall  of plants, the first inside a UK restaurant. I think it would be a lovely space to book for a private function, as there’s plenty of light and space, and it would be perfect if you had a band or musical act booked to play for your guests.

The first time we visited was a special blogger event during which we learned about The Foundry’s Espresso Martini, made with coffee roasted by their neighbour, Camden Coffee Shop. A couple of weeks later, Pete and I went back to see the venue at its best – for dinner followed by the Friday night gig.

On Friday nights, you can either book a regular ticket to enjoy the performance, or one of the handful of dining tables that are set up within the performance space. Tickets for the performance cost £11 (in advance, online). A three course dinner during the performance is £25 and you need to book that via phone.

When we organised our visit, those tables were already taken, so we enjoyed our meal in The Foundry’s dining area. They have a £10 Lunch and Pre Concert menu available from 12-3 pm and 5-7 pm but we ordered from the à la carte menu.

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It was refreshing to be able to choose from an appealing list of cocktails, all priced very reasonably at around £7.50-8. There were also several wines available by the glass, at very reasonable prices, and of course by the bottle.

Cocktails were served in enormous jam jars, jumping on a tired bandwagon trend, but they were very good and generous too. I loved the balance of flavours in the Cherry Drop cocktail of the month and Pete’s Virgin Apple Mojito was similarly very well judged. (The espresso martinis we had on our previous visit were also excellent).

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Pete’s Burrata with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes, mixed leaves and a balsamic reduction (£9.50) was decent. The burrata was creamy with a rich lactic flavour and the other elements were as you’d expect. It was a touch pricy given that it’s a pretty pedestrian set of ingredients, but enjoyable.

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I went for one of the “Gourmet ploughman’s platters”, all of which are served with homemade bread, pickles, onion marmalade, apple, grapes and salad. My Seafood platter (£9.50) came with a generous serving of hot smoked trout, smoked mackerel pate and smoked salmon, all of which were very tasty. However, whilst I must point out how very good the homemade onion marmalade is, I felt it and the pickled gherkins and fruit were far better suited to the Cheese & Meat and British Cheeses platters, and didn’t really work very well with the fish. Instead, for the Seafood platter, I’d rather have a good homemade mayonnaise or aioli, and some much lighter pickles such as soused cucumbers.

The platters also come in a larger size and make lovely shared nibbles if you’re just planning to pop in for drinks and music.

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Pete’s Duck breast with orange cream, cocoa powder and plantain chips (£15) was mixed. He’d really enjoyed the same dish on our previous visit, when the quality and cooking of the duck was perfect. This time, while it was still cooked pleasantly pink the breast hadn’t been properly butchered and had a tough tendon running through every piece and the fat was chewy rather than crisp, as previously. The orange sauce was tasty, with a nice balance between sweet and sharp. The plantain crisps were as strange as the first time though – sandwiched together with an intensely sweet banana cream, they were much more of a dessert pastry than a savoury side.

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My Fillet of beef with foie gras, crostini and madeira sauce (£19.50) was also mixed, though I thought the steak itself was excellent for the price. My beef was correctly cooked, tender and full of flavour. The foie gras on top was decent, though should have been warmer. The sauce was tasty, though again, not hot enough when served, resulting in an almost solid gelatinous texture. The crostini underneath was so butter-soaked it was actually sickly and I couldn’t eat it. And this from someone who often smears an outrageously thick layer of butter onto bread or fruit cake!

Overall I enjoyed the dish, but it needs a few tweaks to shine.

My side of french fries were anaemic and needed longer in the fryer. The green beans were better.

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Pete chose Homemade ice cream or sorbet (£6), and opted for three scoops of sorbet – lemon, orange and pear. These were very good, with a noticeably smoother texture than many we’ve been served elsewhere and rich, intense and fruity flavours.

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I was pretty full but so glad I let manager Samuele tempt me with the Tocino del Cielo (£6), described as an “authentic Spanish crème caramel served with vanilla cream”. The cubes of rich crème caramel were so good, definitely the dish of the day for me. Rich, sweet, and – like the sorbet – incredibly smooth; and they looked so pretty with the gold leaf on top. The vanilla cream was not too sweet, which worked well against the cloying crème caramel. The blitzed caramelised sugar looked pretty, but as it had been left on the slate for too long before serving, it had solidified and become a bit chewy.

This dessert also made me realise why the Spanish like their coffee so dark and strong – the bitterness is needed to cut through all that sugar, but the match is very good. This was a superb finish.

 

Service was patchy though I wouldn’t describe it as poor. Manager Samuele was excellent, both in knowledge and enthusiasm about the food and drinks menus and in anticipating diners’ needs. The rest of the staff were certainly friendly, but we found them lacking in training and not at all attentive, even when the restaurant was virtually empty during the earlier part of the evening. Smiles made up for some of that, but service did let the experience down somewhat.

 

After our meal, we moved into The Forge for the performance. It was fully booked and there was a great buzz to the space.

As Pete was feeling ill, we weren’t able to stay for the whole of Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s performance but we saw enough to appreciate the beauty of her voice and her unique style. Some of her material we enjoyed more, and some less, but appreciated being able to see her perform live in such a small and well-designed space.

 

Within a short walk of both Mornington Crescent and Camden tube stations, The Forge and The Foundry are really easy for us to get to, so I’m planning to keep an eye on the Events list. A few cocktails, a shared platter or two, some fine music and that crème caramel would make for a fine evening!

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of The Forge and The Foundry.

 

I’m very pleased to be in the March/ April issue of the Morrisons supermarket magazine.

They’ve created a “Blogspot” page in which they share a selection of blogs that have caught their eye recently. Included is a reference to one of my recent posts on Japan about the sweet marshmallow delicacies called Owara Tamaten, that we discovered in Takayama.

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As I’m in the company of esteemed writers such as Signe Johansen (Scandilicious), Ms Marmite Lover and Marina O’Loughlin, amongst others, I’m doubly delighted.

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Click to view full size

Read more about my experiences in Japan, here. (This lists the most recent posts first, so scroll down to the end and read back upwards if you wish to read them in order.)

 

Burren Smokehouse are one of the wonderful Irish producers I met at Dublin’s Bloom In The Park last year.

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Birgitta Curtin of Burren Smokehouse

This family business was set up by Birgitta & Peter Curtin back in 1989 and takes the best from the smoking traditions of both Ireland and Sweden to produce a high quality Irish product. Their salmon is sourced from Irish fish farms on the Atlantic coast. Once it arrives it is checked for quality, filleted, salted with pure sea salt to cure and then cold or hot smoked in oak smoke. Finally it’s vacuum-packed to maximise shelf-life.

It’s a quality product and tastes fabulous. I tried a number of the Burren products at Bloom and found them all excellent.

Burren Organic Salmon cropped

 

COMPETITION

Burren Smokehouse have generously offered a side of Irish organic smoked salmon, worth approximately £50, to one lucky Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery anywhere in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite accompaniments to serve with smoked salmon.

Entry 2 – Facebook

Like the Kavey Eats Facebook and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win Burren Smokehouse products from Kavey Eats and @BurrenSalmon! http://goo.gl/Qos4K #KaveyEatsBurren
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the hashtag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!”)

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 29th March 2013.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • The prize is a side of Burren Smokehouse Irish organic smoked salmon and includes free delivery anywhere in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Burren Smokehouse.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a sample of smoked salmon from Burren Smokehouse.

The winner for this competition was Rocky (Wildfood).

 

Like our fascinating walk through Takayama’s Miyagawa Morning Market, Nishiki in Kyoto is full of wonder.

Stall after stall of fresh and processed produce, kitchen cookware and tableware line a long and narrow glass-covered arcade that runs parallel to Shijō Street, a main commercial artery running east to west through the city. With Teramachi and Shin-kyogoku Streets and the department stores on Shijō nearby, this is a great destination for browsing or shopping.

Some of the produce is familiar but much is not, and without a guide or translation tool, it’s hard to identify. Some stall holders are clearly not very interested in tourists, and that’s fair enough – I doubt they get many sales from us. But others are happy to share a smile or try and help explain their products.

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Passing through Teramachi and into Nishiki; Vegetables that seem to be preserved in sand; fish

 

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Dried fish; Chestnut salesman

 

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This strange decorative fruit is known as Fox Face in Japan, and as Nipplefruit, Titty Fruit and Cow’s Udder elsewhere!

 

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Persimmon; dried snacks; a dried tofu specialist

 

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Preserved vegetable; fresh mushrooms; apples; beautiful fresh seafood

 

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Eggs; seafood; fried snacks to takeaway; unidentified preserved produce

 

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Browsing; pumpkins; ceramics

 

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Singing pickle salesmen; live clams; sweets

 

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Buying vegetable; Pete checking out the chop sticks shop; restaurant front on Teramachi Street

 

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After exploring the market, delicious cakes and iced coffee in a tiny cafe in a nearby side street

 

Catch up on previous posts about our trip to Japan.

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