New Year New York

These are my plans for New Year:

26th Dec: Fly to New York
27th Dec: Daytime: helicopter ride over Manhattan, trip to Century 21 to buy underpants.
28th Dec: Daytime: Sopranos Tour. Evening: 1) Front row seats at the Moscow Cats Theatre (when I first wrote about this extraordinary outfit, back in 2001, on another website, it was called the Moscow Cat Circus. I wonder if the name change was a PC decision). 2) Dinner at Peasant.
29th Dec: Daytime: Train to Philadelphia, traditional cheese steak lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, afternoon browsing body bits at the Mutter Museum. Evening: back to NYC, on to New Jersey for American Football – New York Giants vs New England Patriots.
30th Dec: Afternoon: Basketball – New York Knicks vs Chicago Bulls, Madison Square Garden. Evening: Ice Hockey – New York Rangers vs Montreal Canadiens, Madison Square Garden.
31st Dec: Daytime: Open to suggestions. Evening: Seeing in 2008 with Gogol Bordello, live at Terminal 5.
1st Jan: Recovery
2nd Jan: Fly to Buffalo, travel on to Niagara, book into jacuzzi suite at the Oakes Hotel overlooking the falls. Continue recovery, spend night in luxury.
3rd Jan: Fly back to New York, evening meal (with a little luck) booked at Babbo.
4th Jan: Fly home to London.

Phew. Anyone care to suggest things to fill in the gaps?

Larder Panic

I need to clear some space.

My larder is getting to the point where I can no longer add new food to it, so I need to eat my way through what’s there. Apart from all the regular herbs/spices/condiments/baking ingredients, here’s what I have to make things with:

500g semolina
100g ground almonds
100g pine nuts
200g sultanas
1 jar preserved lemons
150g tin foie gras
1 jar stem ginger
Black beluga lentils
Jasmine rice
Basmati rice

And in the fridge:
500g jar foie gras
2 x jars goose fat
Large box of quince jelly
500g mascarpone
250g cream cheese
250g butter
1 bottle Veuve Clicquot
3 2 bottles lager
Some Parmesan cheese
Small block of lard
1 jar Jersey Black Butter
7 pots rhubarb yogurt
1 jar tomato passata
1 jar of black cherries marinating in kirsch
Half a dozen hundred-year-old eggs

Plus a freezer full of beef.

Hmmm. It strikes me that my diet appears somewhat richer than it probably ought to be. Still, any suggestions?

Loose Ends

I’ve been a busy boy, hence the lack of updates. So here’s some updates.

1) I wrote a nice thing on Outsider Music for the Word Magazine Website. Go read it, and look at the lovely videos.

2) I cooked and ate some spiffy crocodile gumbo for The Observer. Hmmm, what shall I do for the letter ‘D’? What’s that? Down boy!

3) I finally put pictures from my April trip to North Korea online. The downside to taking photographs in the DPRK is that because the tours are so strictly timetabled, and because the organisers are keen that you see precisely what they want you to see, pretty much every tourist comes home with a series of identical snaps. It’s hard to capture those unguarded moments when they occur so infrequently, and most of the time it would be rude to try. Having said that, I like this couple.

One day I’ll actually get round to writing up the trip, honest. And the one to Turkmenistan. And the one to Serbia.

4) New blog alert! My friends Bjorn and Kristin have a blog. Sadly, most of it’s written in Icelandic (apologies to Bjork if she’s reading), but the English bits are good. Bjorn is the kind of traveller I admire, rolling up in Muslim Istanbul and heading straight off to the cinema to catch some nun porno.

5) New blog alert! My friend Ladyshambles has a blog. That’s obviously not her real name, but there’s sound reasoning behind the anonymity. Why? Because if you knew her name you’d track her down and hide outside her house waiting for a glimpse. Why? Because a) she’s much better looking and talented than you are. Really. Think of the best-looking person you know, and double it. Seriously. Amazonian? Check! Brains? Check! Curves? Yowsa! Then there’s b) when she’s on fire, she writes better than you do. Just accept this. Finally, c) one day she’ll probably be famous for doing something really spectacular, and we should all respect her privacy until this inevitable moment arrives. In the meantime, just read the blog, so you can tell people you were there at the beginning.

American Football

I went to see the Miami Dolphins play the New York Giants tonight, the first regular season NFL game to take place outside the US. And I have some observations.

1. I generally like American Football: ‘intensity’ is a much abused term when it comes to sport, but it applies to this game when it’s firing on all cylinders – I can’t think of any other team event where each and every athlete is physically operating at close to 100% when the ball is in play, and it can be genuinely gladiatorial in a way that few other sports can match. Having said that…

2. Wembley doesn’t suit the sport. Because each touchline is patrolled by an endless parade of coaches, physios, kitmen and the 40-odd players not involved in the action, the first ten rows of seats are emptied so that no-one has a restricted view. The result? The nearest punters are the best part of 40 yards from the action, and the atmosphere suffers accordingly.

3. This was an awful, tedious game, albeit in lousy conditions. 65 sodden, slippery rushing attempts does not make for high-class entertainment.

4. There’s no other game so obviously constructed for the benefit of those not in the stadium. It shouldn’t take three hours to play 60 minutes of sport, no matter how much money is being spent on TV advertising. When the players are continually standing round waiting for commercial breaks to end so they can resume the action, all momentum lost, you know the game is well and truly screwed.

5. It doesn’t have to be like this. Anyone who’s watched a game of American Football with the clock ticking, no time-outs left and the attacking team running no-huddle offense knows that it can be genuinely thrilling, edge-of-the-seat stuff. It’s a pity the rules conspire to make this the exception rather than the rule.

6. I can’t imagine I’d be too happy to be a Miami Dolphins fan: you only get eight home games per year, and you probably pay the best part of $1000 for a season ticket. Now you find out you’ve got to fly to London for a ‘home’ fixture, with all the expense this entails and a weak dollar topping things off nicely.

7. Talking of which, £10 ($20) for a programme? I don’t think so.

8. What’s with all the moronic call-and-response cheer-leading? I’ve noticed this creeping into English Football (at the Emirates, the announcer reading out the Arsenal team-sheet will shout ‘Theo!’ and the crowd responds ‘Walcott!’). It’s as if we’re not able to make noise or create atmosphere without being prompted like five-year-olds learning basic addition. Here, the announcer calls, ‘It’s another Miami Dolphins…’ and the faithful shout ‘first down!’ It’s truly idiotic.

9. Why is Wembley never sold out? Once again, there were numerous blocks of empty seats scattered throughout the stands, despite NFL UK claiming over 500,000 applications for tickets. And just like the soccer, many of those occupying the corporate spots failed to return after the half-time break until the final quarter had all but expired. All those empty seats must look great on TV.

10. Best streaker ever. Mark Roberts reprised his performance from Superbowl XXXVIII. Hilarity ensued.

Next time, I’m going to watch it from my sofa.


Things I accidentally did on Facebook this week, part one.

1) Send a girl some virtual chopped liver.

I am *such* a romantic.

Word of Mouth

One of the great beauties of the web is the chance it gives to talentless buffoons like me to pretend to be someone they’re not.

Some examples: I regularly register with dating websites as Lovekitten22, a one-armed transvestite brunette from Nuneaton. Or you can find me on medical bulletin boards dishing out quack advice to teenage hypochondriacs. It’s great fun. Or I’ll pretend that I can cook.

And people believe you. It’s on the web, so it must be true. You claim knowledge, and no-one doubts you. You give the impression of great wisdom, and everyone assumes that you’re wise. Or you rustle up some pepto bismol ice cream and people start to think you’re the next Mrs Marshall.

I can think of no other reason why the Observer Food Monthly have given me a regular slot on their Word of Mouth weblog.

Yes indeed. With a bit of luck, assuming I don’t poison myself mid-quest, Fraser Lewry’s Animal Alphabet will unleashed in bi-weekly installments over the next 12 months. I’d love to be able to claim that the idea was my own, but it’s actually a Rob Manuel original. He is a very clever man, and his diet isn’t nearly as dreary as I suggest in the opening paragraph. Sorry Rob.


I don’t like children. Especially yours.

Apart from the continuing the human race angle, I really don’t get it. They’re ungrateful, noisy, irritating little shitheads, and every time I’m told that Timmy is *soooo* clever for his age reinforces my theory that what these pampered whelps are actually best at is reducing the intelligence of their parents. He’s two years old, for fuck’s sake, which means that little Timothy’s settings are switched to ‘dumb-ass’ by default, no matter how many members of the teletubbies he can identify without being sick on the sheepskin or messing his pants. In a perfect world, fatherhood would consist of a) presence during conception and b) turning up at Wembley to celebrate the first England cap.

Having said that, I’ve been passing a sign on the way home from work this week that damn-near breaks my glacial heart.

I swear I must be going soft.


The thing I learnt this weekend: there are some t-shirts you really shouldn’t wear out, especially when you find yourself in a pub sitting opposite a young lady with Down’s Syndrome, her parents staring at you rather frostily.

Yep, that was an uncomfortable moment or two.

Things I Made With My Meat: 1

This is the first of a series of semi-regular postings based on the meat mountain in my freezer, detailing the adventures I have turning it all into scrummy food.

This plateful was a month in the making, and my first experience of home charcuterie. Here are the condensed instructions.

1. Take a nice chunk of silverside. Stick it in a plastic box with red wine, salt, orange and lemon peel, rosemary, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, peppercorns, juniper berries, whatever. Cover.

2. Leave it for a week in the fridge.

3. Hang it in a muslin bag for three. It will get quite whiffy, and then it will stop being so whiffy.

4. De-bag.

5. Refuse to be discouraged that it looks and feels like a block of freshly-dug coal.

6. Slice thinly, devour with quality olive oil and a light sprinkling of lemon juice.