Posts Tagged ‘ Food ’

#gastrognome: nemesis

friends, it pains me to
have to report that the #gastrognome has been blighted by sadness.

what pains me more, dear reader, is that i cannot but help feel more than slightly responsible. in an attempt to bolster his oftentimes meagre self-confidence, i had expressed to him in no uncertain terms that he was the world’s finest online food critic.

at the time that i first made this pronouncement, it was motivated not only by sympathy and compassion, but also by the sense that it fitted all the available data.

recently, however, it has come to both our attentions that this conception can no longer be maintained in the face of the breathtaking work of a new, young wünderkind of the food criticism world. this precocious genius does his work primarily online, publishing stunning video reviews under the formidable name Thefoodreviewer, and is very much Curnonsky, Ronay and Reichl rolled into one.

here is a flavour the brilliance that has thrown the #gastrognome into a fiendish funk.


Transcript (for the speakerless):

Troobet, today I’ll be teh-tasting the [ugkhum] diet coke in can.
I’ve already had one today. I know it’s good.
Cisco right ahead gettin’ right in the view no talking.
Moss tart by opening it, what that le-Paul thing.
I hate these things [*chish, ker-klaa*]
Smells OK.
[*zzzzzzzzeruup, slllleppeeeruuup-aah*]
Amuch better than regular. Coke and Pepsi, huuh.
Yeah, d’um [*slllerrr-cuaah*]
Ah, buy the diet coke in a can, s’pretty good.
[*indecipherable mum-shouting*]
[sudden aggressive tone]

#gastrognome: christine crimble’s coconut ‘croons

those of you who are friends of mine or RQT regulars will no doubt have heard me wax lyrical about the many comestible virtues of Mrs Crimble’s Coconut Macaroons.

i love them passionately.

my profound admiration for Christine’s (as i like to imagine Mrs Crimble is called) moist, wheat and gluten free coconut cakes derives from two outstanding qualities:

1. they’re freaking delicious
2. The Dr doesn’t like coconut, so I don’t have to feel guilty about not sharing them

given all this, you can imagine how delighted i was when Mrs Crimble herself got in touch and asked if she could send me some samples of a recent addition to her confectionary family: Mini Choc Orange Macaroons. however, in the interests of impartial, professional evaluation, and because i’ve given up chocolate for Lent, i handed all but one of the delicious morsels over to our resident foodie and RQT heart-throb, the #gastrognome (i ran the other one under the hot tap to remove the chocolate).


as far as i can tell from my lowly (disad)vantage point, one of the most remarkable things about Mrs Crimbles Macaroons is the fact that the people that buy them seem to think that they are privilege to some sort of special, secret revelation – like the Gnostics of old, or Tom Cruise.

the facts are, however, that the original Choc Macaroons sell at a rate of over 1/sec in the UK. one. another one. one more. and so on. so, it seems that, in reality, everyone is keeping the same secret.

i think perhaps it is the indulgent nature of the sumptuous coconut cakes in question that gives rise to this phenomenon – eating them creates such a sense of satisfaction that no-one can bear to think that other people regularly enjoy the same experience.

when confronted with the new Mini Choc Orange variety my first thought was one of overwhelming joy that, at last, littler people were being catered to and for. like our illustrious editor, i too enjoy an original Mrs C’s macaroon, but at around 3″ across, they’re nearly half as wide as i am tall, and, as such, are a nightmare to get home from Gnomesbury’s (i get a taller gnome friend, who’s 9’2, to help me).

these new gems, however, are barely larger than my head, and much easier to handle (even if they are in a more spread out arrangement in their packaging).

their texture is quite different from that of their large, plainer cousins, but while they’re looser, softer and more yielding, they’re no less satisfying to munch. the orange element is nicely tangy (with that delicious, slightly bitter tang of quality marmalade) and the dark chocolate sets the whole thing off superbly.

whether you buy them because they’re wheat and gluten free, because they’re more wholesome than many snacks, because you’re small and so are they, or just because they’re delicious – whatever the reason, i’d recommend you try them.


ps. Mrs Crimble also does a wide range of other gluten and wheat free treats, from muffins all the way over to crackers – check out the full range here

#inspiringquotations: number four


“Seal? I’d say sweeter than penguin, but gamier than chimp. Add salt.”

>Gyles Brandreth

#gastrognome: whiners and diners

our trusty foodie friend has been partying his little hat off for the last few days, in capital London of all places. here is a rant he came back with about American Diners and also a list of things he had that he liked.


the American Diner is a well established format for an eatery outside of America (there they’re know as just ‘Diners’), yet almost every time i eat in one i am left wondering whether the people who run them, have ever been to America, or whether they’ve just been to other American Diners in not-America. my latest American Diner experience took place at The Diner an American Diner in Camden, London, England.

i am not an especially seasoned American traveller, but i have invested quite a large percentage of the time i have spent travelling stateside, in diners. here are my ten dos and dont’s of running a American Diner in not-America.

1. Do: provide free iced water for all customers shortly after arrival.

2. Don’t: go overboard on the US-ness. make use only the most stylish and classic aspects of the experience (a framed photo of the cast of Dallas, for example, has no place on the wall)

3. Do: learn a good recipe for pancakes – it’s going to be a staple of your menu, so get it right. also, if they’re part of a Short Stack with Bacon or a Lumberjack Breakfast, don’t serve them with snow drifts of icing sugar)

4. Don’t: try to offer too many options – concentrate the experience by sticking to the classics. Stack/Short Stack (with bacon, blueberries or just syrup), Lumberjack (short stack, bacon, syrup and two eggs), Waffles, Ranch Eggs, Home Fries, Steaks (and Philly Cheese Steaks), Burgers, Mac and Cheese, Milkshakes, Ice-cream Floats, Knickerbockers, Sundaes. focus on these and get them right.

5: Do: serve the food hot

6: Don’t: serve the food less than hot

7: Do: offer free re-fills of filter coffee

8: Don’t: make people have to ask for their free re-fills – have someone on coffee pot duty.

9: Do: know the proper lingo. you don’t have to go mad, but having a menu that fails to make use of at least some of the wealth of American ‘diner speak‘ is stupid. be familiar with sunnyside up, over easy, over medium, over hard, deadeye and ‘wrecked’ eggs, perhaps even offer your steaks ‘bloody as hell’ or ‘burnt to a crisp’ like in Pulp Fiction. even if you don’t want to put this stuff on the menu (which you should) then at the very least know them and don’t make people feel stupid for using them while ordering.

10. Don’t: have your flies undone whilst serving the food.


here are some more general likes from the latest London jaunt:

0 Lemon, green tea and mint frappuccino (new in Starbucks)

0 Snog: a chain of 5 frozen yoghurt shops across the capital that serve icy treats.

0 The Leather Exchange: a really nice pub on Leathermarket Street, SE1 which serves truly delicious food.

0 A shot served by a friendly barman at The Blues Kitchen in Camden made from Apricot pulp and Sambuca – yum.


#gastrognome: eat london

all of the full-time staff here at RQT have spent the last week working in london. while there we took the opportunity to let the #gastrognome loose in the capital to seek out some lesser known spots to chow down. here’s where he ended up:

Kum Luang, 326-328 Creek Road, Greenwich. se10 9SW: specialising in thai food but offering an array of broader pan-asian options on the menu, this diminutive restaurant a few streets from the waterfront was something of a surprise. in my experience eating out is 90% about expectation, and i’d been introduced to this place on the strength of its low prices – so i was perhaps not expecting too much. it would be true to say that it is fairly simply decked out with something of a ‘budget’ feel, but when our food arrived i was impressed with the quality as well as the promised value for money. my gnome friends and i shared a platter of prawn toasts, crispy seaweed, vegetable spring rolls and spare ribs as a starter and i ordered a dish of duck with spring onions and plum for my main. the food was hot, tasty and plentiful although the service was not what you would likely call ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘swift’. they also stuck somewhat pedantically to an unusual ordering method involving a slip which you filled out and handed to the waiting staff. i would not necessarily recommend Kum Luang for an evening out, but as somewhere to drop in for a cheap, tasty weekend lunch (as we did) it fits the bill well. with starters at around £2 and most mains between £4 and £5, it’s fairly easy to deal with the quirks. probably not one for a date though.

Jaguar Shoes, 34-36 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. E2 8DA: best known as a bar cum über-kool hangout for the most angular haircuts in shoreditch, ‘Jag Shoes’ also boasts a dinner menu with some surprisingly sophisticated pasta options alongside the more standard bar-fare. i enjoyed a rather delicious melanzane parmigiana served with some nice flat-bread. my date had penne al salmone and no complaints. the house wine was pleasant and the staff were friendly (which is an ‘extra’ in this part of town). as with all such places, swerve around friday and saturday night and check it out on a monday or tuesday.

Yum Cha, 27-28 Chalk Farm Road, Camden. NW1 8AG: while this singaporean restaurant offers a full menu of delights, when i went my fellow diners and i were out for one thing and one thing only – dim sum. on a monday, tuesday and wednesday they offer their steamed/fried parcels of wonder at half the usual price and we cashed in in a big way. we ordered a plethora of dumplings filled with scallops, spiced vegetables, pork, duck, squid, shrimps and beef in a variety of sauces and arrangements. as our food began to arrive we watched bamboo steamer after bamboo steamer being piled on our large table until very little of the cloth or the faces of those opposite remained visible. we gorged and it was freaking delicious. i ate the volume of my own head in dumplings and more and paid £10 (including tip) for the privilege. i can’t recommend Yum Cha because that would let the secret out and i want to get a table there whenever i please. so don’t go – it’s rank.

#gastrognome: butterfield diet

after the excesses of last weekend the #gastrognome has been on a diet this week. after much deliberation he chose the Butterfield Diet plan as devised by businessman health guru, and former-massive fatty Brian Butterfield.


being saturday today is ‘treat day’
we’ve got an owl crisping in the oven right now.


#gastrognome: festival of south west food & drink

the #gastrognome has been in his element for the last few days what with it being as it was the 2010 Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink.

packed with workshops and demonstrations by world famous chefs like that rotund australian ming-the-merciless-alike that won masterchef last year the scatty woman who always used to be annoyingly chirpy on ready steady cook and exeter’s own one-armed wonder-chef michael caines (i for one continue to be at an utter loss as to why he hasn’t yet ‘tricked out’ his prosthetic arm with a motorised wrist-mech with interchangeable utensil attachments like a giant whisk a dough hook and a pizza-wheel style roto-slicer. opportunity missed).

no of course it’s not really about the nobody chefs that everyone’s pretending to have heard of, what it’s really about is samples. the core of the festival is the giant white tents pitched down the spine of exeter’s northernhay gardens chocked to the gunnels with the cream of the south west’s food and drink crop. some stalls refuse to put out any free tasters of their goods – these stalls are rightly shunned. at those that do it’s all about making sure you recoup your entrance fee (£10 for a weekend ticket) in samples as soon as possible.


highlights included:

• Sharp’s ‘Orchard’ Cornish Cider: i know several of sharp’s beers very well – not least the near-matchless Doom Bar – but this delicious cider was new to me. it’s crisp well balanced and properly fruity but not over-sweet (unlike so many of the over-priced fashion-ciders) but best of all sharp’s had brought a proper refrigeration system so it was also ice-cold. ahhhh.

Quickes Cheddar: lots of the producers are peddling their latest sun-dried tomato and honey blossom ciabattas or green tea and fennel seed fudge (“you wouldn’t think it works, would you?” – no and it doesn’t). what i like about quickes is that they come every year with two products: their cheddar cheese and their smoked cheddar cheese. both are delicious.

Manna from Devon Double Chocolate Brownies: basically a big slab of yum. no room for flour just things that make them exceptionally rich sticky and good.

Pieminister: hearty pies with various tasty filling served with minted peas and gravy. A true beard moistening treat.


it’s not all that good though – far from it. there is always far too much loitering in front of stalls whilst beard stroking and fake conversation making and thus blocking people from getting samples. also a sizeable percentage of the attendees are the sort of people to whom it never occurs that walking around in a very crowded place continually staring off into the middle distance and using their faculties solely for the purpose of seeking out their son ‘hugo’/hen-pecked husband/aga information stall of choice or walking in a direction opposed to that in which they are loudly talking is perhaps not that considerate or useful a thing to do.

sunday (denoted ‘family day’) once again proved to be a veritable assault-course of high-end pushchairs (how much bigger can these contraptions get?) and unbelievably slow-walking posh children. all around annoying parents could be heard exclaiming “oh look oliver organic water” and “no lotty you’ve already had a pomegranate and venison pasty and some fair-trade spinach hummous and remember you’ll need some pocket money left for bologna”.

all in all however the festival proved once again to be three days of tasty tr(eats).