Category Archives: Food and eating

Treet yourself to something sweet

Sweet bliss

by

Helena Rac

A very sweet (strawberry icing with chocolate) cupcake but sizzling hot hot story. Often quite graphically sizzling…

Funny that we still get a lot of cupcake stories as here in London they are not doing so well now – and the sugar treat has lost its appeal.  And so it has in the USA as well it seems, with the largest chain cupcake makers – Crumb – closing up in 2014. Or has it?

In 2015, Crumbs was bought and began again with different cupcakes. No longer simple chocolate, now they are flavoured rather differently with peanut butter or carrots or hazelnut Frangelico, pink Champagne, spiced pumpkin, vegan, gluten free, and with less colouring, and fresher baking and ingredients – some will even bake to order in front of you – if you have time to wait of course..

But in the UK we have seen a rise in national specialities – the Portuguese egg custard tart is very popular as are French patisseries – we now have several French chain bakeries – themed cakes and those with more unusual ingredients especially vegetable or fruit eg a lime drizzle cake with courgette; and of course the cannoli has made it here big. The cannoli comes with many different flavoured fillings including pistachio and there is even a cannoli cupcake with ricotta cheese filling/cream.

The Italians are now in London in force again especially the Sicilians and their delicatessens are springing up all over, and then of course there are the doughnuts with fillings such as rhubarb, peach, and salted caramel custard.

And no, I haven’t sampled them all! I just look and drool…

So in London there is no real trend setter unlike the cupcake. Is there a reason why cupcakes are not quite as popular? Is it the calories? Are we becoming more weight conscious? Certainly the latest report from our Chief Medical Officer says that some 75% of middle-aged women are obese or overweight – but for me it is the frosting. The frosting just got piled higher and higher and higher. More and more bright and yet brighter colours and much much too sweet. In fact strawberry with chocolate sounds like my least favourite combination. So if you remove the icing, you are back, as she says in the book, to a muffin and a very plain muffin at that.

Would I read more by this author? Probably not. It was, for me, a sweet treat (pun intended) away from crime and thrillers and fantasy and science fiction my more usual fare.

chocolate cake

Craving something sweet for Xmas?

Xmas Cravings

By

Emma Hamilton

A very sweet and quite short story.

If artificial sweeteners were definitely never used by ‘Greedily Yours’, one might even say saccharine sweet.

That said it is full of humour. I read a short piece out to my book group from her ‘blogging’ excerpts and they all giggled and confessed that they could visualise very clearly the happening described. 10 random people, including 2 librarians, a GP and a dental surgeon all liked the excerpt which shows that the author speaks clearly to a woman who has ever tried to bake a special cake and failed. And also, that her style of writing is clear, humorous, and well written that our visual cortices were engaged.

Now whilst I appreciate that Mia, the heroine of this story, likes her running and exercise, I am still very concerned for her cholesterol level and arteries. There really is no need to roast a duck and then baste the potatoes in the fat AND add the fat to the vegetables. Too much similarity of flavour surely and far too much fat… try a little butter and sugar and red wine vinegar in the red cabbage and try roasting potatoes in extra virgin cold pressed organic if possible, rapeseed oil, and taste the difference!

Cold pressed rapeseed oil is a ‘good mood’ food. It contains essential fatty acids and these will boost brain power, stabilise moods, balance hormones and reduce inflammation. So an excellent oil to use and can be cooked at a high heat as well as drizzled over salad etc and has a lovely taste to add to stir fries.

I enjoyed this short read especially the ‘blog’ excerpts and the chatty style of writing.

4 stars.

Margate by the Sea: an unexpected delight

We went to Margate to visit the new(ish, 2011) Turner Art Gallery and the Grayson Perry exhibition.

We were slightly disappointed by its architecture – not the shape but the colour – dull grey. Apparently when opened it was coloured by banners but not now and whilst the sun was shining – quite remarkable for this end of summer this year, we could envisage it being very dull indeed on a wet grey day by the sea.85-turner-contemporary

It is positioned right at one end of the huge series of bays that form the Margate sea front. By the harbour wall of what was once Meregate a small fishing village . it has been inhabited since probably pre-historic times and certainly the Romans lived there but constant invasions made life difficult during the 8th, 9th and 10th century.

Margate is situated on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which of course, hasn’t been an island for a long time. But it was still an island when the Romans lived there and a bridge wasn’t built until the 1400s. In the 1700s you could still reach it by ferry, but the channel silted up and Reculver is now on dry(ish) land. The land still needs to be defended against the sea trying to gain its channel back and so there are sea defences all along the coastline.

Margate – which is on the outer edge and thus faces the English Channel, was part of the Cinque Ports through the control of Dover, but became independent from their control in 1857.

It is claimed to be one of, if not the first, coastal resort for sea bathing which greatly changed its status from a fishing (smuggling) harbour to a fashionable bathing town bringing with it not only boats carrying traffic down river from London but eventually also the railway. Turner lived in Margate for some years coming down by boat from London and then leaving by boat to cross the channel from there. Very convenient – and thus the Turner Gallery was built here.isle of thanet

However, after the flush of post war holidays in seaside resorts within Britain and then the holiday camps of Butlins  and Pontins etc decline in the 1970s, when cheap Spanish holidays came in for the masses, Margate declined.

I went to this area of coastline often as a child staying at Broadstairs, just along from Margate in a bed and breakfast establishment of which there were huge numbers. These high terraced houses are now in sad repair but, since 2011 and the Turner Gallery, some are being bought up and refurbished and becoming boutique hotels such as the Crescent Victoria where we stayed, just along from the Gallery.

The Isle of Thanet has a most amazing coastline. It is really all sand and yet more sand. Great depth of beaches that are shallow in slope so good for kiddie play which is why the area was so popular when I was a child. And now there is a seawater pool in the middle of one beach for safe swimming.

Margate is tatty round the edges but has some interesting areas around the Old Town where they seem to specialise in vintage clothes and furniture. We found two really nice places to eat – Harbour Café which did the most amazing chips; and the Ambrette which is a modern Indian – even does roast Sunday lunches with venison and other exotic meats. However, rather lacking in vegetarian food which was a shame. Still good reviews from the meat eaters – even some suggesting it is worth a Michelin Star!

And then of course there is the Shell Grotto. No visit to Margate is complete without a visit to this very interesting but unexplained and without know history, underground cavern.shell-grotto

Stories about when it was created range from the Phonoecians in very early history (yes they did trade with the UK) as a religious place – with an altar at the far end of these underground passageways. Or a Folly of course. Or something else entirely.

What is certain is that all the shells apart from 4 are English, it has been around a few hundred years and has been open since the 19th century to the public, and the shells have been added, altered etc at different times but some are clearly very old. Many of the patterns are symbolic eg A Tree of Life; A Corn Goddess; A Ganesha; A skeleton; A Perseus and so on….

Spooky as it is all underground and quite large – 104 feet.

What is a really nice thing to have is the Viking Trail. This is coastal path for bikes and pedestrians which is very smooth and wide and goes all around the island’s coast passing through Ramsgate and Broadstairs and Reculver too. It is 25 miles in length so you can run a marathon if you wish – but the one running when we were there did a figure of 8 and came back to its start!viking trail

Denbots rock

A Netgalley Review

Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

By

Becky Chambers

Denbots rock… I bet you never need to go to the dentist – no toothaches, no fillings, no abscesses.. just white shiny teeth – and you wouldn’t have to ‘bribe’ kids to clean their teeth with toothbrushes that flash coloured lights or the little timers I’ve just bought my grand-children.

I found this to be a really imaginative piece of  sci-fi with some great Aliens. Not just their names but also time was spent imaging on what they looked like, what their different characters might be, their attitudes, cultures and food.

I especially liked the not-lizard Sissix  (Aandrisk) with her complicated  sex and family life; Dr Chef (Grum) who combined cooking with medicine using food as medication from sweetness for comfort to herbal concoctions for hang-overs, sadness and general health. The Grum have different sexes at different times of their life too and he was currently male having passed through his female and motherhood period.

Then there was the  AI Lovey – in joke here – named after Ada Lovelace – geeks would be aware of course of her.ada

Ada was a Mathematician, and considered to be the first Computer Programmer living 1815–1852. Yes, a woman wrote the first computer program! She was the daughter of Lord Byron of infamy, and her father was actually married to her mother and so she was legitimate. And very well educated. She was taught the sciences in order, according to her mother, to prevent her becoming like her father… She became a friend of Charles Babbage (Difference Engine as seen in the Science Museum) and her work on the programming of this machine was actually published in 1843 but she ‘cheated’ but only giving her initials and thus the journal was unaware she was female.320px-Babbage_Difference_Engine

 

 

 

 

 

Babbage’s Difference Engine [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine#/media/File:Babbage_Difference_Engine.jpg] was a calculator but one that was never ever finished (until built by the Science Museum) because Babbage had thought of a better engine yet – the Analytical Engine, which could be considered a general purpose computer. This Engine was to use punch cards as per the weaving Jacquard loom. And could undertake 3 different types of actions. It was a brilliant concept and the first ‘real’ computers actually used punch cards as I well remember from university days – does this date me? Probably but I was taught programming using these cards and I had a summer job translating accounts onto punch cards too…

Back to the book. The Geeks who were of course the Techies and their craziness is well known to those of us who have worked in computing – geeks tend to be very individualistic and dressed with little regard to fashion, weather or even cleanliness – to see them in a suit is a rare bird indeed.

The Aeluons were lovely too and the idea of not having voice boxes is a natural extension of sign language and skin adaptations and their rainbow colouring was universally acknowledged as being beautiful.

I thought the Gaian cult too was interesting that all the souls were tied to Earth and that they had become survivalists as I am not sure that is what Gaia is really about – Gaia after all is the planet itself and all that it is – a living system which I guess is where the souls being tied comes in, but Gaia is really a self-regulating system – which could include the death of all humans if it means the life of the planet.

I compared this to the enhanced humanity cult where they bred children in gestation chambers based on what they anticipated the adult requirement for them would be in terms of traits ad capabilities. Such a cold idea.. but then we have seen the idea of breeding for genetic traits coming up time and again in our human history and even now, we hear about people using artificial insemination so that they ensure  the right sex of the child.

And the one thing I really want to take away from this book are the Denbots. They rock!

 

5 stars for originality and good style, I wanted to find out how it all ended and just kept on reading…

Boston USA: eating and tourist traps

OK so we went to Boston and ate and toured some more. We ate at the:

  • Gourmet Dumpling House
  • La Galeria in Salem Street, which is a traditional Italian;
  • Xingh Xingh which is Vietnamese and we highly recommend the fresh vegetable spring rolls and the tofu caramelised in a pot. the rice ends up stuck to the bottom of the pot and is crispy and crunchy and caramelised!
  • Mare – an  upmarket Oyster and Fish bar.
  • Boston Tea Party cafe – beware – the traditional clam chowder is made with pork fat.

Now we decided to do the traditional tour of the coast and see some villages/small towns. So we hired a car and set off to Plymouth. we ate a hearty breakfast at the Roadhouse which seemed to be cowboy themed with a central bar for alcohol and very large portions of steak for breakfast…. After wandering around for a bit we drove down the road and eventually decided we needed lunch – at the Blue Plate diner. This was in a hamlet really but was full of very friendly people.P1030371 P1030377 P1030379 P1030380 P1030384 P1030385

Off we went to Providence which is very cute town indeed, with lots of very cute doggies and owners… BUT, a warning here, in Season they can have upwards of 80,000 visitors a day.. yes I got the noughts right. However, we were there before they opened up some of the shops and the beach – which isn’t cleared until June 2nd – the Season then continuing until around 1st September. It is quite Disney-like and difficult to access the beach.

As the town wasn’t really open yet when we visited we had to go back to Plymouth for our evening meal which we ate at the Bangkok Thai.

We also visited Concorde where in the Market and Cafe (which didn’t have any type of market) we had the world’s largest iced coffees for $4 and a very delicious mocha raspberry muffin. There were some nice artisan shops there with the jewellery being locally made but often pricey.

Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

On our recent trip to the US we stayed in Boston for five days. Now we had to eat – breakfast too, so where did we go and what did we eat?

We had breakfast several times in The Thinking Cup by the park. This was a great place – used regularly by locals for both eat-in and take-out. It served Stumptown Roasters’ coffee. This is a small (ish) coffee roasterie with ethical values – producing excellent coffee.P1030341

Whilst in Boston we visited Cambridge (yes there’s one of every town in the US it seems) where Harvard is situated. On a lovely day we wandered the streets and shops. The houses are beautifulP1030367 and so are many of the buildings in this area. And as for the jewellery shops with their hand-made silver – well. I did succumb and bought some earrings. We would especially recommend the Brattle Street and Church Street Cambridge Artists’ Co-operative for handicrafts.

So what about food in Cambridge? well we went to Burwicks Chocolatieres  where we were subjected to an Austrian style cake shop! Oh dear – the different types of hot chocolate that were available not to mention the creamy chocolate cakes! you could choose which type of chocolate you wanted from single origin eg Peruvian, to multi mixed.

P1030363We also ate at the Clover Food Lounge. This is a student run vegetarian cafe where you can have a light lunch. For our evening meal we went to the Russel House Tavern which is a bistro pub and very good.

Tummy fulfilled: New York style

We have recently been travelling about in the US: Eating in New York.

As is my wont, when I have been away I try and blog about my experiences. I confess, freely, that I haven’t finished where I went last year, but I am trying to get to this year a bit quicker! So here is something about eating in New York. I have specifically chosen this subject as we found some very interesting and different places to eat.

Ricetoriches

Yes, we can have porridge cafes, they can have rice pudding outlets! they have a website so you can check them out for yourself but we did think they were a trifle expensive for a small bowl of rice pudding. That said, they had some amazing flavours and do seasonal flavours too. Their standard range is 18 flavours with 5 per season and 12 different toppings. Sweet? Very!

Pinkberry

Frozen yoghurt with a difference – the pink berries! They have a yummy taste… they have come to the UK now and can be found in Stratford – Westfield – and Selfridges.

 BubbaGump

We ate in their Times Square outlet and were served excellently despite the loud noises from their celebrating a customer’s birthday!

Everything had calories attached so beware the desserts! We had a variety of shrimps of course, but very large shrimps too – and mahi mahi with a cajun shrimp starter and garlic  bread. spicy and nicy.Bubba Gump interior

PS they are now in London!

Eataly

Amazing – a supermarket with a difference – you can buy your Italian food here or you can eat it fresh from the counter. The longest queues being for the ice-cream of course! there are 2 places where you sit and are served – Fish and Vegetarian; otherwise you can perch at stools and eat what you have bought. We tried the Verdura eating area and ate our veggies. Just beware the risotto is made with wheat berries and is very heavy as a result. Aperitivo-Picnic_homepage-hero_V1

Also now in London I believe.

Hangawi

This is a Korean place in the traditional style – so beware if you have disabilities. You sit on the floor with your feet in a pit. The table is fixed at waist high and thus can’t be removed for you to climb out of easily. I managed to thump down but getting out and getting back on my feet defeated me. In the end, I managed to get my feet up on the floor and then did a very ungainly bum shuffle over to where there were some steps so I could climb back up onto my feet. Good job I was wearing leggings under my skirt! You take your shoes off so make sure your feet don’t smell and you have matching socks on.

They have a very sensible ban on mobile phones. Turn them off completely. The food is all vegan and excellent. Stone rice pots as are especially good as the rice ends up sticky and crisp as it continues to cook in the residual heat. When they ask, do you like it spicy? beware. They add a spice paste to your dish at the table and mix it in for you. hgw_ani_01

Booking essential.