Bollocks to this, I’m off to Cornwall, where I shall attend the rather splendid Tapestry Music Festival, which takes place once again at Spirit Of The West, the UK’s finest Wild West theme park. Really.
Archive for July, 2005
Two things I did this evening I’d never done before:
1. Texted answers to a friend of mine taking part in a pub quiz with George Best.
2. Collected snails from another friend’s garden in preparation for a snail risotto I’m planning on cooking up next week. Normally I’d simply order them online, but Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall informs me that the common garden variety is perfectly acceptable, as long as they’re purged of any impurities first. This is done by feeding them lettuce or carrot for four or fives days, then starving the little fellows for 48 hours prior to execution.
This is already proving to be a harrowing experience, knowing that in just under a week’s time I’m going to have to turn my kitchen into a snail abattoir. They’re beautiful, elegant creatures, but I figure if I’m going to eat meat then I should at least be prepared to face the grim reality of the slaughterhouse floor.
It’s not going to be easy.
Hooray. The Daily Kitten got Farked yesterday. This is excellent and timely news, as I was just about to give up on it as a poor idea. Now I have a glut of uploaded images I can use, and my efforts to become the web’s one true kittenmaster are nicely back on track.
It’s also exciting because it’s the first time I’ve been properly Farked. Previous projects have been Boing Boinged, Metafiltered, b3ta’d several times and 2 Channelled. I’m really only missing a decent, hard Slash-dotting, but I swear my day will come, and then I’ll have a complete set of the things that can happen to bring your website to its knees.
I once got an e-mail via Friends Reunited asking, “Are you the Fraser with gorgeous hair who could swallow a large sausage whole without gagging?”. I had to admit that I was, and looking back, these regular feats of epicurean stupidity are some of my strongest memories from college. Another trick was to show up at my campus canteen, collect a plate of shepherds pie and a serving of apple crumble, nonchalantly combine them in the same dish, then cover with custard and get stuck in, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
This wasn’t an attempt to push the boundaries of culinary experimentation, of course – I was just showing off – but the regular looks of horror on the faces of my fellow diners seemed to suggest that I’d broken some kind of ancient gastronomic taboo. To me it was obvious: I like shepherds pie. I like apple crumble. I like custard. Is there any reason, apart from conventional kitchen wisdom, why I shouldn’t enjoy the three together?
I’m not suggesting that it’s solely this kind of simple reasoning that drives chef Heston Blumenthal and his team at the Fat Duck – his approach gets far more scientific – but it is the perceived mismatches of ingredients which have, for better or worse, become his trademark. This is a pity, because there’s much more to The Fat Duck – the official best restaurant in the World for 2005 – than the infamous snail porridge and the equally-so bacon and egg ice-cream.
The restaurant is situated in the obviously well-to-do village of Bray, Berkshire, 40 minutes west of London by train followed by a five minute cab ride. Inside it’s surprisingly cosy – low wooden beams and only 45 seats. It’s also very relaxed – nearly every diner is dressed casually, and there’s none of the stuffiness often associated with more expensive establishments. We arrive early, but are seated immediately and served quickly. We opt for the Tasting Menu, 16 courses of bite-sized splendour.
Nitro-Green Tea And Lime Mousse
Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly, Horseradish Cream, Lavender
Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho
Jelly Of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait Of Foie Gras
Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham, Shaved Fennel
Roast Foie Gras, Almond Fluid Gel, Cherry And Chamomile
Sardine On Toast Sorbet, Ballotine Of Mackerel “invertebrate”, Marinated Daikon
Salmon Poached With Liquorice, Asparagus, Pink Grapefruit, “Manni” Olive Oil
Poached Breast Of Anjou Pigeon Pancetta, Pastilla Of Its Leg, Pistachio, Cocoa And Quatre Ã‰pices
White Chocolate And Caviar
Mrs Marshall’s Margaret Cornet
Pine Sherbet Fountain
Mango And Douglas Fir Puree, Bavarois Of Lychee And Mango, Blackcurrant Sorbet
Carrot And Orange Tuile, Bavarois Of Basil, Beetroot Jelly
Smoked Bacon And Egg Ice Cream, Pain Perdu, Tea Jelly
Leather, Oak And Tobacco Chocolates
It’s fantastic. Every moment is a surprise, from the steaming bowl of liquid nitrogen that theatrically accompanies the first course, to the wafer-thin pieces of white chocolate covered with caviar we’re instructed to let melt on our tongues. Each course is accompanied by a small glass of wine chosen especially to best compliment the taste of the food – a SavenniÃ¨res from the Loire Valley, or a cold Junami Ginjo sake from Japan, each time presented with a story – where it comes from, what it tastes like, and why it works with the dish we’re about to start.
Everything is immaculately introduced with a mixture of pride and playful glee, and the results are nothing short of sensational, each bite a moment of near-sensual pleasure. I imagine the entire experience could only be improved with the introduction of large-breasted maidens offering executive relief from beneath the table.
Any complaints? The snail porridge didn’t seem to elicit the same, joyous, laugh-out-loud reaction that almost everything else on the menu did, and I did have a ‘Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup’ moment after a tiny bug dive-bombed into my Manzanilla en rama. I’m happy to say that the glass was replaced immediately, and without fuss.
So is it worth the money? By any normal criteria, obviously not.
I’ve flown to New York for less than my share of the bill, which came in at about the same price as my monthly grocery spend. For the same kind of money I could have bought 467 Mars Bars. Or 83 pints of Guiness. Or fed a hungry African child for close to five years. It’s ludicrous, and it’s crass, but I don’t begrudge spending a penny of it. I doubt whether I’ve ever eaten so well or been fed so graciously, and it’s unlikely that I ever will again.
Unless, of course, I get funding for my next project, a movie called Supersize Moi, in which I document how my body reacts to eating at The Fat Duck for an entire month.
But right now I’m off to the kitchen to start experimenting. I have a helium-filled goat placenta I’m going to infuse with lentil extract, then serve on a bed of chewing gum in a rhubarb jus.
I decided to make one of those clever panoramic photographs of the view from the roof of my flat.
It’s a bit bright today to get the best results – on a less hazy afternoon you can make out the London Eye clearly and see as far as the Crystal Palace Tower – but most weirdly there are two different buildings on fire in the shot, one of them featuring very obvious flames.
I went on a date once. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. The young lady in question has since gone on to become a great success in her field, with a regular column in the Daily Mirror. She appears on GMTV, has written for Heat, and turns up regularly performing talking head duties on those dreary pop-culture countdowns that clutter up the schedules at Channels 4 and 5. More recently she’s been seen on Big Brother’s Little Brother as resident expert on all things housemate. Don’t all scramble for google at once.
It was a strange affair. Our eyes met in a crowded pub after some indie-gig-or-other, and before you knew it we were huddled in a corner desperately trying to figure out what it was that we might have in common. The answer, somewhat surprisingly, was Geri Halliwell. She was obsessed with the whole Girl Power phenomenon, then at its peak, whilst I was an ardent fan of Ginger Spice’s more-than-ample bosom. And, if truth be told, I was quite fond of some of that first album, in a desperately insulting post-ironic fashion.
So we arranged to meet. Somehow I ended up promising to make my date a Spice Girls Spice Rack, hastily cutting out pictures of the five spices and pasting them to a rack purchased just for the occasion. We met in a Spanish bar in central London, I offered my gift, and in return was presented with a plaster model of Geri, hand-crafted, a limited edition of one. It’s just about the best thing anyone has ever made for me.
Anyway. The date was only a mild success, she went on to form a serious if ultimately calamitous relationship with one of my best mates, and Geri swiftly mutated from voluptuous pop princess into idiotic, wizened crone.
And the reason I mention all of this now? Because she popped up very briefly in a dream last night (the date, not Ms Halliwell), wearing an Indian sari with a giant pair of nappies over the top.
I am not quite sure what this means.
Note to self 1)
Next time you’re abroad, pay much closer attention to your travel itinerary. This will enable you to successfully arrive at the railway station in time for the correct train back to London, without incurring a cost of €120 to get a ticket for the next departure.
Note to self 2)
When one of the reasons you leave the country is to get the stamp enabling you to stay in the UK transferred from your old passport to your new one when returning through immigration, check that the law didn’t change 18 months ago, meaning that this kind of renewal doesn’t take place any more, and instead you have to apply to the Home Office and pay £160 for a ludicrously bureaucratic, may-take-up-to-14-weeks-and-ruin-your-holiday-plans alternative.
Still, Antwerp was a pleasure. A weekend of great company (thanks to Luba and his fine lady Anniek), rich pastries, strong coffee and pink marzipan pigs. Lovely.
That’s all I have to say to these criminals who attacked my city. I shall not be moved. I shall not be bullied, swayed, or cowed. I will stand up, and I will go about my business as normal. I shall not retreat, retire, or face defeat. I will stand firm and victorious in the face of terrorism. I shall not be moved.
Bollocks to this. I’m off to Antwerp for the weekend.
I’m OK in Leicester Square. Thanks for the e-mails. Monitoring Radio London and Metafilter, about a mile from the nearest blast. Walking home later, or may go to the pub to watch cricket.
Later: Just walked home to Kilburn, about five miles. It’s truly weird – round the back of Edgeware Road (scene of one of the explosions) were a fleet of 10-12 ambulances, with loads of medics standing round. On the opposite site of the road, a rammed pub, the tables outside full. Business as usual.
The only business I saw closed on the whole way home was the Apple Store on Regent St.
I’ve been a right grumpy sod lately, complaining about anything that crosses my jaded path. This means, of course, that I’ve started writing e-mails again. The first was to the Radio Times, who printed what looked at first glance to a very promising recipe for slow roast beef from top chef Heston Blumenthal.
Having just spent the best part of £25 on a freshly slaughtered, organic 3-bone wing rib of beef, I was extremely disappointed to discover a flaw with Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for a low-temperature roast (25 June issue, page 38).
While the list of ingredients calls for 100g of unsalted butter, there is no mention of this within the recipe itself. What is the butter for? Decoration? Lubrication? Can you explain? My meat is in danger of rotting while I wait for an answer.
Three Michelin stars? Not in my cookbook…
As yet, there’s been no response, and my meat is getting more than a little fetid.
Meanwhile, the Independent have redesigned their website. At first glance (there’s that phrase again), it looks promising, a pure-css design with no tables. But it’s a fucking disaster. Pages often throw up XML parsing errors. The site’s DOCTYPE claims that it was built using XHTML 1.1 strict, but it clearly uses 1.0 transitional. In Firefox, the ‘increase text size’ option borks the design. All the articles have new URLs, but without redirects from the old, so all that search engine traffic they’ve built up over the years, all those weblog links, all gone. You have to pay to view the website’s terms and conditions, or competition rules. Most stupid of all, there’s no search facility.
So I mailed in another complaint, to the nice technical gentleman listed on the paper’s contact page, the pleasantly named Lee Goodwin-Grafton.
Is there going to be a search engine on the new Independent website? You’re hindering my daily attempts to eke out the latest news related to the lovely Miss Mariah Carey.
All the best,
Once again, I’ve been greeted by silence, although I suspect that Lee is rather busy fixing stuff. Interesting, the details on the contact page have been removed since I wrote my mail, so anyone wishing the draw the technical staff’s attention to, say, an error on the site, has to pay £1 for the privilage of signing up to the Independent’s ‘Portfolio’ of premium articles, where the contact details for the print edition are held. Moronic.