Archive for January, 2006

ouch

I don’t like to think of myself as a weakling, but yesterday I cut myself. On a piece of toast.

marrow

I ate at St John on Friday. The restaurant is most famous for its ‘nose-to-tail’ kitchen philosophy, where every part of the animal is saved, served and savoured; current residents of the menu include chitterlings (pig’s intestines) and roast bone marrow & parsley salad (pictured above). The latter is delicious, despite having the texture of cooked mucus, and involves scraping the inside of some roasted veal bones for its glutinous bounty, then spreading this jellied nectar onto slices of toast. This may sound unappetising, but I can guarantee that it’s genuinely mouthwatering, and that it won’t be long before I’m rustling up batches of the stuff in the blogjam kitchen.

Other dishes sampled included a piquant block of braised hare, a succulent hunk of middlewhite pork, a truly ambrosial marmalade ice-cream and a quite superior creme brulée.

I’d suggest that everyone book a table forthwith or, failing that, rush out and buy a copy of the restaurant’s own cookbook, and reproduce the dishes at home. While some of the recipes might fall foul of post-BSE government meddling (sheep brains are getting harder and harder to come by), others to attempt include crispy pig’s tails, duck’s hearts on toast and pea & pig’s ear soup.

Yummy.

letter not from middlesbrough

Crikey. I’ve been back from the Middlesbrough the best part of 48 hours, and still not reported on my trip. So here’s a few brief highlights.

Parmo: Despite prior knowledge of and an appetite for the delights of the much-fabled Parmo, I was unable to procure an example of this legendary dish. So actually, that’s not so much of a highlight. More of a disclaimer.

Football: It’s not often that the team you’re supporting loses 5-2 and it feels like a moral victory. While the Middlesbrough players trudged off the pitch at full-time, the vanquished Nuneaton team spent fifteen minutes on the pitch celebrating with the 4900 supporters who’d travelled up from the Midlands (Chelsea took just 903 earlier in the season).

Police Escort. Never had one before, but highly recommended. Makes getting where you want to go so much easier.

Press: My continued attempts to appear in every newspaper in the UK seem to be bearing fruit. If anyone has a copy of yesterday evening’s Nuneaton Evening Telegraph, I’m the one with the glasses, blue woolly hat and giant foam hand.

Radio: If anyone was listening to Radio Cleveland during the build-up to the game and heard one fan’s prediction of an 11-3 scoreline in favour of the ‘non-league minnows’ (© every lazy football columnist in the country), that was me. It was a joke.

letter not from america

Crikey. I’ve been back from the States nearly a month, and still not reported on my trip. So here’s a few brief highlights.

Les Halles: Had dinner at Antony Bourdain’s flagship Park Avenue brasserie. The food was solid if not spectacular (escargots for starter, steak and frites for the main), with the meat a little on the tough side, and ‘the best chips in New York’ no better than those I cook at home (which are spectacular, I’ll admit). The desert menu was the biggest disappointment, however. Rum Baba, anyone? Is that meant to be ironic? On the positive side, the ambiance is great; not at all stuffy, heaving with customers, and excellent, friendly service.

ESPN: Back in the early nineties my friend Adrian decided to move to the US. I smuggled him into the radio station I was working for at the time and recorded a demo tape which he took with him, hoping to find jobs in broadcasting. He progressed through the ranks of college and alternative radio, worked as an announcer for the New England Revolution soccer team, and is now a fully-fledged sports commentator at ESPN. I travelled up to Bristol, Connecticut, where the company is based, and sat in the control room while Adrian broadcast a game between Valencia and Athletico Bilbao, ably supported in the commentary box by Shep Messing, who, despite having a name like a dog with diarrhea, has an impressive footballing pedigree. He played alongside Pele and Franz Beckenbaur for the New York Cosmos, once saved two George Best penalties in a single game, was Paul Gascoigne’s US agent, currently looks after WBA keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and, most impressively of all, was a playgirl centrespread. Shep was full of scandalous stories, none of which I could possibly repeat here without incurring the wrath of at least two sets of lawyers. Performing the same role on the Spanish version of the broadcast was legendary Argentinan striker Mario Kempes, and post-game I had my picture taken with both men. It’s not often you get to meet someone who’s scored two goals in a World Cup Final.

Braza: This, in a nutshell, is my kind of restaurant. One sits at the bar drinking beer while a meat platter of vast and improbable proportions fills ones vision and subsequently stomach. Beef, turkey, pork, ham, chorizo, sausage, kebabs etc. Highly recommended for packing ones colon with thrilling, vibrant, meaty goodness.

Moscow Cat Theatre: I was a little nervous about going to see this. I’d first read about the troupe in 1999, and had harboured thoughts of seeing them perform ever since. When I arrived in NY, I switched on the local news channel, and was immediately confronted with an advert for a season of performances at the Tribeca Performing Arts Centre. Serendipity. 48 hours later I found myself a sore-thumb in an auditorium full of young mothers with children and batty-looking old ladies, watching as the cats walked tightropes, performed paw-stands and pushed prams containing dogs across the theatre floor. It’s all a bit disconcerting, but cats won’t do anything they don’t want to, and most of these proud felines looked perfectly content performing their tricks. 100%, grade-A weirdness. I didn’t take pictures, but there’s some available at Bluejake. Ooh, and there’s a photoset on Flickr.

Monkey Town: My last night was spent in Monkey Town, the kind of place that, were it located in London’s fashionable Hoxton district, would be staffed by pretentious, rude, expensively-attired idiots with foolishly sculpted hair and sanity-threatening cocaine habits. Here, a very friendly fellow called Jeff makes us feel very welcome, keeps us entertained and buys rounds of drinks. Why is it that barwork in the US is so much more an honourable profession? The tips obviously help, but the level of service is so much better, even in the ropiest of dive bars, which this certainly isn’t. Dinner for two sees us chow down on pulled pork, with basmati rice & 3 sauces: herb chimichurri, nam pla, and orange-tamarind relish; grilled striped bass with pistachio-herb crust, roasted sweet potatoes, and ginger red cabbage; for desert we sample the milk chocolate curry mousse with chickpea brittle & whipped cream and the rose-pomegranate cheesecake with pistachio cardamom crust – all very adventurous, and quite delicious. As the blurb says, “we serve experimental cuisine and classic dishes from a country that doesn\’t exist.” If you’re ever in Williamsburg, pop in and say hello.

All in all, a fantastic trip. Almost as good as Saturday’s trek up to Nuneaton.

media whore bore

Another day, another national newspaper falls under the spell of the all-conquering Kittenwar. Today it’s the Daily Express, who manage to capture the very spirit of modern-day tabloid journalism with their front page, which features a) a gentle reminder to readers of how health and fitness are affected by astrology (pages 44 & 45), b) a masthead ad – including image – for a near double-page spread on the site prompting them to “Find Britain’s cutest Kitten” (pages 18 & 19), both of which nest gently above c) a headline proclaiming “Toddler raped by Paedophiles”.

rent-a-quote

Oh dear. The kittenwar story has spread to the online version of The Sun. The journalist I spoke to has cleverly edited what I said to make me appear completely barking mad, but I’m not. Honest. No, really.

Meanwhile, anyone wishing to follow this story via the magic of old-fashioned print media are recommended to get tomorrow’s Metro for a follow-up piece. As well as the Mail. And the Express.

metro sexy

I sat next to three women reading tabloid newspapers on the tube this morning, two of them sighing audibly while gazing at the contents of page three. This unusual behaviour was prompted by the appearence of an extremely large kittenwar feature in the Metro.

I’ve done the maths, and it all looks good. Metro claim a daily print run of 1,010,374 copies. I figure that each of these papers will be read carefully before being left on public transport for another reader to enjoy. Each of these subsequent readers will take the paper into work and share the article with eleven colleagues (I reckon that’s an average office size, based on a 246-page pdf file produced by the UK Government entitled ‘UK Business: Activity, Size and Location, 2004′).

In summary, I reckon that each of these people will be so enamoured with what they read that 12,124,488 cat-lovers are likely to visit the site today, meaning that kittenwar will be bigger than MySpace, and Rupert Murdoch will buy us out in a multi-billion dollar web coup.

Hooray.

best of 2005

I do this every year, and nothing’s gonna stop me this time round. I don’t care that no-one’s paying any attention, that no-one gives a hoot what I like in the first place, that come tomorrow I’ll think of another album I like better than the ones I’ve listed today, or that the Amazon referral payments I’ll collect from this post are unlikely to beat last year’s grand total of 34 pence. It’s my site, and I can do what the hell I want.

So here’s the blogjam Top 20 for 2005. As I can’t be arsed to come up with some flowery blurb to describe each release, the name of each artist links to their page at the All Music Guide, where you’ll find all kinds of glowing prose written by people far more qualified to do so than I.

Neil Diamond - 12 Songs 20.
Neil Diamond
12 Songs
Kaizers Orchestra - Maestro 19.
Kaizers Orchestra
Maestro
White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan 18.
White Stripes
Get Behind Me Satan
17.
System Of A Down
Hypnotize
The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Party Ever 16.
Boy Least Likely To
The Best Party Ever
Kanye West - Late Registration 15.
Kanye West
Late Registration
Sons & Daughters - The Repulsion Box 14.
Sons & Daughters
The Repulsion Box
Che Fu - Beneath The Radar 13.
Che Fu
Beneath The Radar
MIA - Arular 12.
M.I.A.
Arular
Kate Bush - Aerial 11.
Kate Bush
Aerial
Common - Be 10.
Common
Be
Devandra Banhart - Cripple Crow 9.
Devendra Banhart
Cripple Crow
Wilco - Kicking Television: Live in Chicago 8.
Wilco
Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
Little Brother - The Minstrel Show 7.
Little Brother
The Minstrel Show
Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary 6.
Wolf Parade
Apologies to the Queen Mary
Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks 5.
Gogol Bordello
Gypsy Punks
The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday 4.
The Hold Steady
Separation Sunday
Blackalicious - The Craft 3.
Blackalicious
The Craft
Danger Doom - The Mouse And The Mask 2.
Danger Doom
The Mouse and the Mask
Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise 1.
Sufjan Stevens
Illinoise

And that’s it. Tune in again this time next year for another instalment of magical pop wisdom.