Thursday, 22 September 2011

an ode to the burger

Burger feed circa 2010
I had a mad craving for burgers in August last year. This was strange as I usually stay clear of the lot and in the rare occasions I do, I pick on them and eat the elements separately (or I just order open-faced ones without the buns). However, as with most of my cravings, I dared to be satisfied and seriously wouldn't nor couldn't be stopped until I did. So I went all out and devoured burgers as if they're going extinct. Until I got bored and realised man can't live on burgers alone.

The craving started again last month (didn't realise it was that time of the year until a friend pointed this out) and to date, I've been having at least a burger a week. There are some really good burger joints in London and even when you're in a gastropub, it's fail-safe when you can't make up your mind. If I don't have any agendas in town, I enjoy having and making brunch at home during the weekends. Due to the cravings, my Saturday brunches have been looking like this:

Medium rare steak burger + melted/fried swiss + caramelized onions + oven fries
I always always get into a happy mood after eating something like this and because I want everyone to be happy, let me take you through the journey of a really amazing meal. =) (WARNING: Pictures under the cut)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Foodies Festival part 2

Click here for Part 1

After a nice scrumptious lunch of Bambi burgers, we signed up for Angela Hartnett's Master Class. I'm not much of a Gordon Ramsay fan but this lady has got to be one of his best proteges to date. After taking on Ramsay's tongue-lashing in his kitchens she went on to become Marcus Wareing's sous chef at GR's Petrus (now reopened, by the way) and after that, Head Chef at The Connaught (now headed by another kickass female chef, Helen Darroze). She now heads the kitchen at Michelin-starred Murano.

The nakakairitang host is still there. She forgot the name of Angela's sous chef!

After the class we went on to view some more stalls.

Cotsworld Gold oils are really healthy (made of rapeseed), really good for value and absolutely taste-tastic. The first foccaccia stick I dipped into the garlic-flavoured oil did it for me. I was instantly motivated to cook more and eat out less. My favourites were the rosemary and garlic infused oils so I bought a bottle each. Not only have they made my meals taste nicer, they've made the aroma of my kitchen so scrumptious you'd stick your tongue out to taste. I kid you not.

There were a lot of stalls for pastries and yummy drinks like Jimmy's Iced Coffee which the lady kept on saying came from Australia. This was such a hit and we understood why. It was so refreshing!

Cafe On's macarons have had a cult following as they don't really have an onsite cafe and everything's pretty much ordered online. They have really intriguing flavours such as charcoal & coffee, asian melon, cassis, charcoal & jasmine, champagne & peach etc. The lady in me decided to try the very pink lychee martini macaron. Delightful! Enough crisp on the bite and a velvety buttercream that burst with flavour. Super sarap, forget birthday cakes, I want a beach themed macaron croquembouche for my birthday!

There were a lot of gelato stalls as well including Oddono's who pride themselves for using Valhrona for their chocolate-based gelato. I swear, with all the free tasting we've had I probably had about 4 big scoops! My favourite stall was Ariela's Gelato who had the best balance of flavours and creaminess of a perfect gelato. Favourite flavours were the coconut & chocolate, rocher (think NUTELLA and CRUMPY!) and classic nocciola.

Let's not forget the cheese! I can't even tell you how cheesy the day got (#notbeingcryptic!). Cheeses from local English farms, France, Switzerland and Belgium! I had the stringiest melted provolone, the most to-die-ten-times over raclette, the boldest mozzarella, the creamiest blue cheese and the yummiest gouda ever. EVER! I had a go at a nice pimiento cheddar from La Cave a Fromage matched with a very smoky chorizo. Aaaaah! Brought me back to my childhood!

Cupcakes were out and about! I tried the Banoffee Pie cupcakes: mini ones from Blueberry Hill Cakes and a standard sized one from The Little Round Cake Company. Verdict? Let's quote Geel Piet (Morgan Freeman's character in The Power of One) "little beats big when little is smart" ;) The big one had so much buttercream frosting that it overpowered the supposedly banana cupcake. I couldn't even taste the banana =( The mini cupcakes were so much better - sweet enough but not as sickly and small enough to be moreish! Yum.

Best booth has got to be *drumrolls* the Hendrick's booth! Not because it's alcohol based, okay? But because of the super cool vintage stuff they had - an tub filled with hendricks, rose petals and cucumber strips, a dress form patterned with old school looking newspaper, an elephant foot stool, an old gramophone player and other bits and bobs you get to see in antique shops! Quite an eccentric but interesting!

In all honesty, the festival had more of a market-feel to it unlike the Taste Festival which felt like a proper eatfest. Nonetheless, give me a place with heaps of free-tasting and a cocktail of grills, sizzles and steam - you know I'm there. With no reservations ;)

27 before 27 blog countdown: 12 more to go!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

epic US Open '11 finals.

Tennis fans and sportsmen were absolutely spoilt with the display of excellence during last night's US Open finals. Both Nole and Rafa displayed brilliant athleticism and amazing mental strength for the coveted cup.

Djokovic dominated the first two sets, breaking Nadal constantly, going 6-2, 6-4. But don't let the scoreline fool you - both players were belligerent all through out and the every minute was a nail-biting moment. Games were concluded in numerous deuces and a cocktail of intelligent shots that dropped by the net and sliced to the baselines. The rallies were seriously not for the faint-hearted. 

Yo, Jay-Z dawg. Who's yo' daddy now?
Down two sets, Rafa's inner phoenix seemed to have been awakened as he levelled up and turned his game mode on during the third set. Known for a stamina that rivals ten million trolls, he pounded shot after shot after shot whilst Nole's bionic self seemed to take a bit of a break. Rafa squeezed four more points to deny Nole of a straight-set win and claimed victorious after a one-sided tie-break (6-7). At this point everyone was asking the same question: 'Are we going to have a really late dinner?'

Source: Daily Mail

The fourth set started well but after game one Nole asked for a medical time out. I don't know whether it was the pill or the water but after those five minutes he went on and OWNED it, 6-1. And yes, he's done it again. 

Yihee, manicured fingers not?
Source: Daily Mail
Seriously, matches like that make my heart skip beats. THAT's exactly why people like me fall in love with the game. I believe both players deserved to be in the final - the tremendous matches they've played before the finals were quite epic and dramatic. Both Rafa and Nole have always shown a great deal of sportsmanship and so there will never be tears nor commiserations between these two. It was an honor to see both of them excel, not for entertainment, not for self-gratification but for love of the game.

27 before 27 blog countdown: 13 more to go!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Foodies Festival (part 1)

So early last month, I went to the Foodies Festival at Battersea Park. The sun was out and it was a good day to celebrate food at its best!

Gary Lee, Head Chef of The Ivy held a masterclass. He cooked scallops and beef wellington. I would've enjoyed the whole thing better if the host didn't hover and hound so much. Understand it's a show but she was just asking really unnecessary questions (ie, Can you get me free entry at The Ivy?! What are you doing now? What are you doing now? What are you doing now?!?!?!). Hassle.

Because we were quite irita, we decided to go check out the yummy fresh stuff from the stalls.

First off, olives! I had to try the chili stuffed one, which everyone said was hot. Sure, there was a bit of a kick but it wasn't as bad as I thought. Hotter than jalapeno but milder than habanero. Steady. =)

We went nuts about nuts. Wasabi peas, Japanese rice crackers and honey roasted almonds will always get top marks from me!

Do you guys like Turkish delight? I'm not really a fan but they're so pretty to look at!

I love The Honest Carrot's flowerpot bread concept. Cute present for bread lovers/garden makers!

Lots of sausages around, this was the most pungent stall. They sold cheese as well.

Lots of jerk and stew stalls from the Caribbean islands and the West Indies! The Chairman's Reserve staff let me take photos 'driving' their stall. Happy beans!

Chan Cham sauces are amazing! I've tried the Tamarind and 3-Spice (subtle and sweet and perfect for dipping breads and cooking mild curries with a bit of a kick) and their fiercest Hot Pepper Sauce (fiery but yum and an absolute decongestant!) and they're both delicious.

Since the sun was out, we've decided the perfect lunch would be something off the grill downed with ice cold beer/cider. We've chosen to get an exotic burger from Tucker's!

The springbok burger was really delish. They served it medium rare and straight up - white burger bap, shredded lettuce, pickle (we opted out of cheese and tomatoes to respect to the proper flavour of the burger) and just a bit of American yellow mustard. The patty seemed smaller than expected but we're going for quality over quantity! The meat was juicy which is great as springbok is a very lean meat. Every bite was packed with big flavours. Bambi took us to a whole new world (uh... different cartoon!) that even though she's cute in all her subtle marbled glory of a patty, you really wouldn't feel sorry for eating Bambi. Or her dad. Or her mommy. Or... well, you get the picture!

Will talk about dessert and cocktails in the next post. Now off to get me some good lunch!

27 before 27 blog countdown: 14 more to go!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mixed Tape Series: Anberlin - Retrace

Retrace, New Surrender

Retrace the steps we took on that long summer night

I came so close to cancelling for dinner but I didn't want to bail on you again so halfheartedly, I hauled my stressed out ass to Regent Street. I was there on the dot and it dawned on me that a) you're running on Filo time, b) we've never had a proper 'sit-down talk over food' EVER and c) despite knowing bits and bobs about each other, we weren't really that close yet. Fifteen minutes later, I've smoked three cigarettes, OD-ed on mints and doubled on nerves. I didn't know what to expect from this dinner - what would we possibly catch up on? Why was I even fucking nervous? We're just friends anyway and this wasn't a date date. It's 6.45pm. What kind of date would make a girl wait?

Dude! I'm sorry I'm late.

I turned around and as the nerves disappeared, I realised how comfortable you made me feel. I smiled in relief. It definitely wasn't a date.

Photographs they haunt me lately
Chasing shadows as the evening takes me

It turned out to be an awesome night. I can't remember the last time I've laughed THAT hard in public nor if I ever have since. I can't blame it on the sangria because a) you don't drink much and b) it was too weak. Funny thing is, I actually don't remember everything we talked about but I remember getting very much into the conversation because it was just... easy. I really enjoyed myself and even when the restaurant closed down I actually didn't want to stop talking.

You made everything about you easy. Talking to you was easy. Confiding in you was easy. And that.... yeah, that was easy too. It was slightly inevitable, with the way you are. But then summer dragged on and then the winds changed. Clearly, leaving me was easy too.

I should've seen it coming, though. We discussed this issue during dinner didn't we? That you were afraid to get close. That I was afraid to get close. But hey, nobody gave me a warning. Or maybe you did.

I'm still searching but the picture's fading

A year later I was meeting a blind date at the same restaurant. He was waiting for me outside and because I was late, they've booked us the same corner table we had. I've realised Mr Pompous City Boy was not my type at first sight but I tried to concentrate on him. Except I couldn't. he droned about his new countryhouse and how I should come see it (clingy! stalker! too much!) and I kept reverting to that dinner. I remembered us making fun of someone, the way you looked and the way you smeared goo on your shirt like a 5-year-old because we were so boisterous. I couldn't stifle the memory so I laughed out loud. Which I think gave MPCB the idea of me wanting date #2.

Believe you me, I would rather have your silence than sit and listen to this pompous chap I've agreed to see.

I still can't remember everything we've talked about. But I clearly still remember you.