When I was invited to attend the Ben Spalding dinner @CriticalCouple HQ in London, it seemed almost rude to not extend my stay and sample a little of what London had to offer. Although my memories of the weekend will always be overshadowed by the intense, passionate cooking and mad genius of Ben Spalding at both his restaurant and at chez CC, I have nonetheless eaten a lot of great, non-Ben food and met some really, really nice people in the process.
It’s shame that I left London to the backdrop of so much violence and pointless, self-defeating behavior. But I will try to record here the details of what was one of the finest culinary weekends I’ve ever experienced.
It was almost a race to get to Roganic, Ben Spalding’s restaurant in Blandford Street, London. My plane was landing at 9.25 which gave me two and a half hours to check into my hotel (actually . . . →A Weekend in London
Twitter is dangerous; it’s the modern high tech foodie equivalent of some stoned people sitting around going “Dude, I’d love some gravy”. All it takes is two people talking about rhubarb gin to start another 3 month project, all in the name of a drink. Here we go again, as my wife often remarks.
A Google search for rhubarb gin gives a familiar name as the number two hit; @GinandCrumpets. Her post on Rhubarb Gin seems to be as authoritative as any, but there was one line that left me cold…
“use a cheap, cheap gin – once you’re pouring sugar into it, the fine botanicals are not going to be noticeable”
I gave a sly glance at my liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire and decided this was probably not a good idea. A trip to the off license left me a little underwhelmed with the gin selection, so I opted . . . →Rhubarb Vodka part 1
If you find yourself in late autumn with a huge box of apples and you already have all the kit required to turn them into cider, you will probably do the same as me and try to actually make cider. Faced with the same situation again I think I’d pack them all up and give them to a horse.
Making cider was one of the longest, most exhausting things I have ever done. Working until the early hours of the morning to get apples juiced and into fermentation buckets, covered in sticky, grainy heinousness to the point I was battling with wasps, and then, the final indignity; syphoning the 2 week old alcoholic brew into bottles and getting absolutely trashed in the process. Waking up at 4am on the lounge carpet feeling like I’d been hit by a big bottle of cider was the last, sticky straw.
. . . →Cider
“Burps slightly oaky, possibly unrelated”.
Advertising events via Twitter always piques my interest and the Tweet from @WijnvanBilsen mentioning an afternoon tasting of 66 wines from around the world certainly got my attention. As well as their own wines, growers from Italy and France were to be attending and bringing some of their wines along. The whole event was to be catered for by local restaurant Bij Wijze van Klijsen; famed (in my eyes at least) for their slightly misguided camembert crème brûlée but otherwise excellent sweetbreads.
I’ve been to wine tastings before but nothing that promised such a great number of wines and so I was a little sceptical that they could pull it off. However, shortly after arriving with my colleague we were presented with a glass of Casabianca Frizzante Prosecco and a six page document with a full list of all wines available for tasting; the first of which was I . . . →Van Bilsen autumn wine tasting – 07/10/2010