Tag Archives: Food

Working on a new blog

It’s taken me rather longer than anticipated and I had to enlist the help of a friend to work on the design/building of my new blog. I’m just writing up a couple of posts so that it’s not totally empty when I ‘launch’ it. It’ll be up and running in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve really missed blogging but it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a few months so it’s probably been good for me to have a little break.

More news shortly.

I’ll leave you with a photo of me about to tuck in to a delicious Sunday Roast, love how there is such a good veg portion, at The Old Dairy in North London. We’re a bit spoilt round here as there are several pubs that do a good Sunday Roast. Even though I love cooking, there’s something about heading out to a nice pub for my Sunday lunch that really appeals to me.

Susie eating a roast at the pub

Susie xx

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A Crouch End supper club with the fam.

I love eating out, but I also love gathering family and friends around me and eating in (neither of which have I done enough of in recent years). Last Saturday I managed to do both at the same time! How did I do that I hear you ask…by attending a supper club, the Crouch End Secret Supper Club, the perfect marriage of eating out whilst feeling as though you’re eating in. And, I had the loveliest evening.

I’d been to this particular supper club once before when S & S took me as a birthday treat and this time the tables were turned as I was taking them out to celebrate their birthdays.

As S & S live between us and the supper club we agreed that we’d just call for them on our way there which was really just an excuse to sneak a peek at their ridiculously cute new puppy, DJ, he’s so funny and really quite odd looking. He seemed to be interested in everything and everyone and looked more like a wind-up toy than a dog (especially when doing his backward walking – his favourite). DJ 1

DJ the pomeranian – he’s at least half fluff!

DJ 2

He’s nine weeks old here – so sweet.

Now, I have to say (yes J I know it’s pointless but, humans will be humans) that the Crouch End Secret Supper Club will, almost certainly, give you house envy and, if you’re female, it may also give you woman envy because Catherine, the co-host, comes across as a bit of a superwoman, to say the least…the very least (sorry, that’s a Grease reference). The last time I went, Catherine had just flown in the day before from a work trip to China and she still had the energy to join her twenty five guests at the end of the evening for a chat and a glass of wine – I’d have been tucked up, fast asleep, under a duvet (or curled up in a ball in the kitchen, pulling my hair out).

When S & S and I went last time, we didn’t talk to the other diners much and, though I’d really enjoyed myself, I didn’t feel as though I’d had a proper supper club experience. But, I knew that I wanted to go back again. So, it’d seem a little odd, to go again but in an even bigger group, right? Wrong. I think because there were so many of us (six), it meant that those of us that wanted to mingle could do so easily without feeling like we were ignoring the people that we’d come with and we’d chosen a good night to attend because everyone seemed in a talkative and friendly mood.

CESS fellow diners

Two of our fellow diners, they’d heard about the supper club because Catherine and Robert had opened their home up a few weeks back as part of the Crouch End Open Studios (they have lots of wonderful paintings on show in the ‘dining’ room).

We were met at the door by a smiling Catherine who ushered us through to the dining room which was configured in a different way to my last visit and somehow looked more restaurant like.

CESS tables

It was a lovely, warm evening and the dining room doors had been completely opened so that the room merged with the garden. Several diners had already arrived by the time we got there and most were taking advantage of the balmy weather, perching on the decked patio or venturing further afield into the stepped garden. We were brought our welcome cocktail, a golden mojito, and settled ourselves in to the outdoor kitchen area beyond the decking to await A’s arrival.

 

CESS Sunlight golden mojito

Mmm mmm mmm, enjoying my golden cocktail bathed in golden sunlight. Mwah ha.

CESS crab rangoons

Crab rangoons (not sure if these are rangoons as they’re shaped differently to those of the other guests) made especially for me. Thank you so much to the supper club for the enormous effort put in to accommodate my unfortunate (allium) allergy.

 

 

CESS chatting

 

CESS a table

A, D, S & S and J, all behaving beautifully, seated and ready to chow down.

The supper club provides still and sparkling water but if you’re wanting to drink anything else you best bring it with you. We took a very modest three bottles of wine and a classy carton of orange juice!

CESS risotto

First course ‘proper’ Broad bean and asparagus risotto which was beautifully cooked and flavoursome.

Unfortunately my phone camera can’t really cope with low lighting and, as the evening progressed and the light outside faded, candles were lit and the lighting inside was kept at ambient. My photo taking gave up the ghost and I just got on with enjoying the food, the lovely service, the atmosphere and the company.

CESS sorbet

This was meant to be a gooseberry palate cleanser but because of a dearth of gooseberries became a strawberry and basil sorbet instead.

The sorbet was one of the highlights of the meal for me, just because it was so intensely flavoured but still had such a freshness and lightness about it. The risotto was also high on my list of favourites and a special mention must also go to the chicken which was wonderfully tender and the chocolate fondant which was just oozing with gooey chocolatey richness.

One of the downsides of the crappy past few weeks that I’ve had, of which I’ve not talked much about, is that I’m finding that I get very very tired, very easily so, by the time we had eaten the main course I was flagging slightly. I don’t disagree with the decision they took to show England’s first World Cup game, but I do think that it changed the atmosphere -making it different, not worse – and I struggled to keep my head in the evening from then on.

CESS Catherine at work

Catherine at work in the kitchen which is at the front of the house and overlooks the dining room. Genuis.

Of course the food is good, but what really strikes me about this supper club is the scale of it, from the number of guests (it’s a pretty slick operation – there’s no way that I could serve perfectly cooked chicken to twenty plus people at the same time and, more to the point, on time!) to the number of courses. And the effort that Catherine and Robert go to to make the evening enjoyable and a success is incredible. I think that every savoury dish they served had garlic or onions in it and I was served the same menu as everybody else except that my courses had been cooked absolutely from scratch (meaning that where a bought (organic, of course) stock may have been used, a stock was made for me to ensure that there were no traces of anything at all that might react badly with me) now THAT is service. I felt a bit bad because I can actually eat cooked onions with no ill effect (I did say this in my email) and I can eat the things that I can’t eat (if you see what I mean), I just have to eat them in very small quantities and they will still make me feel ill. But, I suppose, it’s easier (on the mind) to err on the side of caution with these things.

There was a big group of people there, also celebrating a birthday, and Catherine had gone to the trouble of baking a cake for the birthday girl on top of everything else.

I’m absolutely sure that I’ll return to this supper club, as they concentrate on cooking seasonally maybe I’ll pay them a visit once per season. I’d highly recommend going, it’s a proper night out, don’t expect to be home before midnight because you’ll still be eating cheese (with home baked bread), sipping on coffee with a little homemade sweet or biscuit on the side, or slurping wine and chewing the cud with an interesting mix of people then. I, for one, am back to thinking about my (doubt it’ll ever happen) very own supper club.

Don’t eat much all day, don’t wear anything too fitted and book yourself a taxi – that’s my advice.

CESS Lollipop head golden mojito

Final bonus photo. This had me cracking up, I look like a ‘lollipop’ head (or as though my head has been stuck on) which is kind of funny when you consider the shape and size of my body.

Music to blog to….

 

 

 

GrrrrOWLLL…..make mine a burger, a Burger Bear!

Oh. My. Days!

Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom (when did nom become the word, anyway!?). Or rather, mmmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mmm.

I think I’ve found my perfect burger and, I wasn’t even looking for it. Tucked away on Old Street, across the road from the Holiday Inn Hotel is the rather wonderful BURGER BEAR (the caps are me shouting, rather than their font preference). Now, I’ve been meaning to try out their burger for a while but for various reasons I’ve not managed to. I almost tried one a week ago last Friday but I was with H, and we were going to have to queue, and I still had memories of the last time I’d queued for food and, being as I was in a bit of a hurry too, I thought, nah…I’ll come back some other time, when I’m on my own. So instead I went and had my first Byron burger (and of course, perversely, the whole thing took WAY longer than if I’d just waited at Burger Bear).

Fast forward a week, to last Friday, and I found myself alone, wandering the streets of EC1 with the sweet smell of bacon jam atop plump, juicy patties of perfectly cooked beef luring me eastward across the Old Street roundabout (in other words I’d taken the opportunity to slope out of the office on my own with the idea of heading straight to Burger Bear).

Burger Bear front

So pissed I wasn’t feeling the photo taking because the print on that t-shirt (just shown, as they say) is of a mega burger and crispy salad leaves! Loved it.

N from work has had burgers from here before but he goes for their ultimate meat lover’s burger the ‘Greedy Bear’ and I knew there was no way I could tackle that double patty monster (odd really as I’m SO greedy). Instead I plumped for the ‘Grizzly Bear’ which was topped with oak smoked bacon, cheese and bacon jam. I’ve heard much about bacon jam and in fact, until I’d had a Burger Bear burger (at which point I had to run back to my office so that I could add my ten cents worth to their already funded project) my only experience of Kickstarter funding was Eat Like a Girl’s Project Bacon which surely includes bacon jam!

Update – 20.03.14 – In the interests of fairness and attributing recognition where it’s due….I ought to say that N from work did actually introduce me to Burger Bear, now I come to think of it. Oops.

Anyway, you place your order and then sit back, stand to the side, dance to the disco – whatever really, while you wait for your burger to be cooked. It’s quite theatrical really…

Burger Tom sprinkling herbs

Burger production line.

Above you see the secret (well, I didn’t actually ask what they were) herb mixture being sprinkled onto the burgers (ahem, actually, I think it’s salt and pepper) as well as three burgers with their cheese, probably bacon jam, and doughy bread tops, patiently waiting for their turn to be steamed (helped along by the odd squirt of water) under the cloche lid.

Burger Tom steaming the burgers

Tom about to lift the lid to check on progress.

Burger bun bottoms in waiting

A row of bun bottoms waiting for their toppings – think mine’s second from the end as I can’t spy any onions.

Burger Bear NO ONION

One of the things I’ve noticed about Street Food is that it’s much easier to find out what exactly is in the food and to ask for things to be left out, if necessary. I also asked for my burger to be medium as I like a pink not red burger.

And…here she is (she!?)….in a really doesn’t do the burger justice shot…

Burger Bear Grizzly Bear

Oozy, juicy, salty, sweet, smokey, cheesy, chunky, FRESH, plump(y), meaty goodness.

I loved this place, I’ll definitely be back for more…in fact, I may go back this Friday. And, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with their two Kickstarter funded shipping containers.

These guys are serious about making good food and they’ve created some seriously good food, they’re friendly and engaging and full of fun. Follow them on Twitter, find out where they are and…go visit.

Pitt Cue Co – that’s a place I’ll never go (again)

I thought I’d keep this blog positive, write about things that have interested and pleased me and leave out those things that have not. A dining experience earlier in the week has had me pondering how best to tackle writing about it without being too negative (and without making it seem as though I’m having a go at individual staff) and then, one last night was such a joke that I can’t not write about it. So, here goes, my first mainly negative post.

Restaurants: To book or not to book, that is the question. And, in my opinion, ideally a combination of both would be the answer. To say that you’re a tiny establishment and you’re not trying to be cool but can’t think of a better and fairer system than first come, first served is, frankly, nonsense:

Better would be to have some sort of marker outside to indicate what sort of wait you’re in for at a particular point (we later learned that from the point we joined the queue at, the average wait is one and a half hours).

ImageIf you’re standing by this blue door, your wait is likely to be in excess of one and a half hours.

Better would also be to indicate to people that when you do get seated after your one and a half hour wait (actually turned out that we waited for two and a half hours in total) there will be SEVERAL items on the menu that will be no longer available.

But of course, if you did that, people just wouldn’t wait, would they.

Fairer would be to take people’s orders once they are inside the bar area (where it turns out that you still have to wait – a further hour in our case) as if you’re in a group that’s larger than two you’ll find that people who arrived after you will get seated and served and in our case, seated, served, eaten their meal and left, before you’re seated. I’m not sure how it’s fair that a total of eight people, who had been behind us, were able to place their orders before us?

ImageLoved this way of running a tab, I wanted to keep it.

Better would be to not turn the lights up at 11pm, the time that the restaurant closes and no more than forty five minutes after we’d been seated, when there are only two tables left, indicating very clearly that it’s time to go. It would also be better not to start cleaning the few other tables when there are still customers left eating. We waited two and a half hours to be seated, Pitt Cue Co ran out of quite a few dishes including the only two carbs on offer (though they weren’t on top of supplies enough to know that they’d run out of bone marrow mash until after it had been ordered by two of my party), I honestly think that the better, no BEST, thing to do, as a matter of policy, would be to let people who have waited such a long time just finish their meal in peace, no?

Better would also be for the staff to hand coats back rather than for customers to work out where the coats are hung and fetch their own. It would also be good if one of the three out of four staff that had been involved with you took the time to acknowledge you upon leaving.

Having said all of that, I am pleased that I’ve been. Pitt Cue Co is somewhere that I’ve wanted to go for absolutely ages and actually, it was really cute and charming and it IS tiny so, we could see, once we were taken downstairs to the restaurant, why it had taken so long to get a table. The problem with having to wait so long is that really, nothing would feel worth it. Whilst we were upstairs in the bar, we ordered some loaded skins to keep us going and they were superb, absolutely bursting with flavour and texture. The mains were good enough but, they absolutely weren’t anything special. After a wait of thirty minutes, a perfectly nice main enjoyed in a sweet little restaurant would be great. If I’d gone up to the Pitt Cue Co food van, paid six quid and received the food that I ate last night, I’d have thought wow, that was really good, I’ll go back there. But unfortunately under the circumstances in which I did finally taste their wares I shan’t be returning (not that that matters a jot to them – or me really, as I’ve lots of other places on my list to work through).

Image

ImagePulled pork, which was good and a generous serving, pickles and some actually very delicious king cabbage with salad cream (and a hunk of bread).

Image

I had a good night out, the children both came back from uni to celebrate my birthday with me and we would have had a good time, no matter what. We chatted away in the queue, playing word games and righting the world, and in the bar, supping away on Whatever draught ale (which, I believe is their own brew and very good it was too), Pistonhead lager and a specially concocted (super sweet) bourbon cocktail (formulated for a non bourbon drinker, as cocktails were all bourbon or rye based) but not quite so much over dinner (as we were too busy filling our mouths, and the bitter taste of disappointment was rearing its ugly head).

ImageA and D, before the meal, drinking and being merry.

If there are only two of you, if none of you are averse to queuing, if it’s not a special occasion, if you’re not in a hurry, if you’re COOL enough to not care (but not cool enough to know it’s all a load of bollocks) then, I’d definitely say it’s worth queuing to check out Pitt Cue Co. It is a nice space, the atmosphere was good, the staff (besides what sounds like my moan against them – it’s more aimed at the policies) were pleasant and helpful and the food was tasty. It’s just a really really STUPID system, or…badly executed system, at best.

What do you think about walk up only restaurants?

Goodbye NW6 or, what Susie ate next.

So my stay in NW6 was rather brief, three months is all! And, what with one thing and another, for almost half of that time, I swear I was back at the family home in North London. Still, time spent away was time very well spent.

I took the day off on Friday and once I’d got through the few things that I had to do (a three hour appointment at the dental hospital being the main thing) I decided to stroll westward again. I had it in my mind to try out the test kitchen at Books for Cooks but by the time I got there (I got waylaid just mooching along, window shopping, hovering for a time outside Daylesford Organic, wondering if I should instead eat there, popping across the road to Oxfam where I bought a book about looking after your money (tee hee..that cost £4), heading back over to Daylesford and then finally deciding that I ought to check out Books for Cooks) the test kitchen had long since sold out. Ah well, it’s not like I hadn’t immediately previously been enjoying myself.

Nevertheless, my tummy was rumbling and the thought of food could not be shaken. On the way down I’d had a look at Bumpkin’s menu which didn’t look quite like what I was after but did look perfectly reasonable, so with the tiniest of detours (to pick up an afternoon treat – see below) I started back towards Bumpkin, and the flat.

Of course I was by now completely on the tail end of lunch, the upside of which was that I only had to share the ground floor restaurant with a couple of other tables. Service was swift and friendly and I ordered a starter portion of smoked baby back ribs in a sticky bbq glaze along with skin-on chips and a side salad (which was off menu, they made one up for me specially). The ribs were finger licking good, the chips were delicious and the salad, with the addition of cucumber slices pickled in dill infused vinegar, was perfect.

Chips in their own little fryer

A really cute way to serve some very good chips (grammar police, please don’t come scolding).

After lunch I went home to start on my packing and do a bit of writing but it wasn’t long before my mind started wandering in the direction of that afternoon treat….Ottolenghi lemon and mascarpone tart

Ottolenghi lemon and mascarpone tart

Oh how I love this – put simply, it’s one of the most delicious lemon tarts that I have ever tasted. I think they must use semolina in the pastry because there’s a beautiful bite and crunch to it, you can almost feel the grains between your teeth, and the mascarpone adds a rich smoothness which mellows the tartness of the lemon just the right amount.

For my final night in NW6, I met up with a few girlfriends at The Oak which I’d first heard about on The Londoner’s blog and then had stumbled upon on my first recce of the area. I was a little late, sorry H, K, C, and B! My dad had loads that he needed me to do for him during the day and I find it really hard to say no to him, I just couldn’t get away early enough. We met in the bar upstairs, which is gorgeous – all high ceilings and low seating, it feels like the kind of place to just lounge with a thin cigar in one hand (by the way I don’t smoke) and a glass of something or other in the other. There’s a cute room off the main bar area that on Saturday, was set up for a dinner. Had I got there earlier I would have enjoyed tasting one or two of their delicious cocktails but as it was, I just went for my favourite du jour, a Campari spritz.

I was a little disappointed when we got called down to our table as I’d have happily whiled away the time in the upstairs bar but those of us that weren’t late were more than ready for food.

H at The Oak C at The Oak B at The Oak S at The Oak

We are pizza family, I got all ma sisters and me. Actually, the only sisters here are K and B.

K at The Oak

K didn’t fancy pizza and instead ordered the rabbit ragu which was so intensely flavoursome.

We chatted about a myriad of things whilst munching on our food and enjoying the feel of the place (I am always a sucker for places where the staff speak Italian to each other, I think it makes me feel as though I too am Italian).

It wasn’t a late night as B needed to get back for the babysitter and I was the only West based one among us. But it was lovely to get out and just sit and chat, though we’ve vowed that next time there’ll be dancing.

Scrumptious The Oak

Oooo yum. Mozarella, Tuscan sausage, GORGONZOLA (so yummy), caramelised radicchio – the Golosa.

A Liverpool weekend with child number one – part three (the final part)

We rose late, again, but this time there was no rush so we just pottered about the house getting ready at our own slow pace. I’d booked us in for afternoon tea at Cuthbert’s Bakehouse which turned out to be just a short skip from the station, so we were able to really relax (which resulted in me almost missing my train!).

Table reservation at Cuthberts

Cute table reservation

Never being ones to miss the opportunity for a few bubbles A and I had plumped for the ‘High Tea’ which was code for not only prosecco but also sandwiches, cakes and pastries galore..

Sandwiches and cake at Cuthberts

Everything was so good, I’m not totally convinced by the mini bagels but, they’re a cute idea. The macarons were delightful with a good crisp shell that had a nice chew to it. To be honest, the cakes were all good – but I can never really manage much of the sweeter of the sweet offerings, preferring instead the scones with just the thinnest covering, a smudge really, of red berry jam and lashings of clotted cream.

Cake at Cuthberts

A white and dark chocolate coated strawberry adorns a slice of beautifully dense and rich chocolate cake.

Beast of a scone

Oh, just look at that – pure perfection.

The scones were gorgeous, along the lines of the scones that I make (using my autie’s secret recipe) – all huge and rough and ready (to look at, not to eat). I like them to have a real bite, a good crust, and then to be floury but at the same time light and fluffy on the inside. These scones were all that and more.

And do you know what? We got all this for £15 per head. Now that, my London friends, is what you’d call a bargain. Fair warning though, afternoon tea has to be booked at least 24 hours in advance so you can’t just rock up if the mood suddenly strikes.

By the way, I found out about Cuthbert’s and Leaf via an article in The Independent. Probably worth checking the link out if you’re on the hunt for afternoon teas as the two places that I tried (okay I didn’t have afternoon tea at Leaf) were very good indeed.

I left with a goody box stuffed full of treats that we just couldn’t fit in, so that was my snacks for the train all sorted (actually, there was far more left over than even I could manage as a snack).

A Liverpool weekend with child number one – part two

Saturday started late, in a hurry and with a hangover. Oh yes, didn’t I say… after 81Ltd, A dragged me to a student house party!! In fact, I didn’t feel nearly as awkward as I thought I would and, as the hangover could attest, I ended up getting into the spirit and having quite a good time dancing round the sitting room.

We had booked in to have a mini tutorial at MAC in the Met Quarter and woke with just enough time to shower, pop a paracetamol and run, head in hands, for the bus. Luckily, we passed a West Indian takeaway on the way to the bus stop so we dove in to get a patty each, deciding on the spot that we’d come back later for our supper.

What's for supperYum yum yum…can’t wait for supper

I’m not sure quite why, but A and I were ridiculously excited about our tutorials. On arrival we were each assigned a makeup artist and were taken through to a back room which was all huge mirrors, bright lights and spinning stools. Although they were only booking half hour sessions that day which wasn’t really long enough, we had a good time and did learn a thing or two. By day (if I remember and am not running too too late) I’m a slick of eye shadow and a bit of blush  kind of a gal but I’d really like to look more polished and ‘put together’ so I ought to have chosen to learn about foundations or something like that, instead, I chose an alternative smokey eye. A chose face coverage. I’ve a friend who is a makeup artist and she sometimes tries looks out on me, it always amazes me how many layers and stages there are to most looks and my smokey eye look was no different. Because it was a lesson, and not a makeover, we actually had to apply the makeup ourselves! The technique was demoed on one side and then the brushes were handed over to us.

MAC tutorial A

I felt really nervous and unconfident – sort of all fingers and thumbs, but my teacher was great and encouraging and I got the hang of it. At the end of the session you’re given a little paper face upon which the makeup artist has applied your look and the details of all the products used.

MAC tutorial instruction cardHere’s my paper face being put together

You do pay for the session but the cost is completely redeemable against purchases and, as the makeup artists finished both our faces off for us, I reckon that if you’re in need of a lipstick or something, this is quite a cool way of getting ready for a night out. Pop in to a shop, get your makeup done whilst learning a trick or two, and then walk out with the lipstick you always intended to buy. Win win.

It seemed funny to be walking out in FULL faces not long after noon and, moreover, with nowhere to go, but, that really is par for the course in Liverpool so we blended right in.

We decided to take a turn on The Wheel of Liverpool and so headed down towards the docks, passing these cute boats which are run as luxury apartments, bookable by the night.

Pimp my boat then rent it outFancy a night on The Yellow Submarine, or The Titanic?

It was such a dreary day but that provided for a wonderful atmospheric and moody snap of the wheel.

Moody Liverpool Eye

I’ve never been on the London Eye, not sure why – it’s not that I’m scared of heights, I think it’s the speed at which the Eyes turn, it’s just way WAY way too slow for me but the Wheel of Liverpool runs quite quickly, so that was okay. I’m not talking fairground Ferris wheel fast but quick enough to not stress out about how long you have to be stuck in a little pod for.

A on the Eye

Post MAC A

View from the Eye 2

View from the Eye 1

I think this almost looks as though it could have been painted

Don't look down

The view from above..

After The Wheel, we ambled our way back to A’s house stopping off at an amazing shop (which will be the subject of its own post) and St Luke’s Church which is a stunning, bombed out Gothic church.  I’ve walked past St Luke’s several times and never been in and I’m glad that I managed to this time round. It’s so odd, it really is a shell, the exterior walls remain intact but when you go inside it’s a different story. There are some wonderful before and after photos on the website above. There are all sorts of workshops and events going on at St Luke’s and they also run an (necessarily, as you’ll see from the photos below) outdoor cinema.

Looking up the central aisle of St Luke's Close up of St Luke's windows

Love the stunning elongated and pointed windows

A and the Lions

Lions at St Luke's Chuch

And the lions on their own, in all their glory.

I fell absolutely in love with St Luke’s or, as the locals know it, The Bombed Out Church.

Though there had been talk of a ‘proper’ night out, all that A and I had the energy left to do was crawl the rest of the way home, order food (so lucky that Raggas did deliveries) and watch crap tv. Bliss.

Tomorrow – afternoon tea and au revoir.