30 December 2008

Talking 'Bout A Resolution...

It's the 30th December. The fridge is remarkably clear - well, not counting the cheese but hell, we've always got too much cheese - the freezer's decently stocked (lots of portioned out turkey for future curries nestling in the remains of the allotment's bounty) and, while there's a distinct lack of decent whites on the shelf, that's probably good. Because it's resolution time.

For some of you, those people who jog to circuit training and worship lettuce, you probably won't understand the sheer terror the word can instil but this year I'm trying to keep a positive outlook, even with the inevitable dietary / exercise / weight loss vows. Yes, indeed, while I'm generally happy being a larger chap, there's a good 30lbs I can afford to drop so - gulp - that's going. Over the course of 2009. And it's staying off. That seems like a sensible amount / plan. I could do Atkins for a few months and end up a shadow of my former self but one celebratory chip later and I'll have ballooned back to Eamon Holmes-esque territory. So slow and sustainable is the plan.

It's also time to take control of the finances a little more and perhaps start again in the kitchen. So, we're on a January mission. Aside from buying fresh fruit and the odd pint of milk (and, admittedly, dropping a few restaurant reviews into the mix as well), we're going to see if we can survive for a month from the tins and packets and the freezer. On the plus side, the freezer is very well stocked (plus we make our own bread) so the first few weeks should be easy enough. But once the obvious stuff goes - the apple crumble we never got around to baking, the portions of made-from-scratch shepherd's pie, the uneaten salmon from a recent gathering, the bags of allotment-grown veg - we should be forced to get creative.

As for exercise... That's got to be done, so currently researching gym memberships. Contrary to opinion / appearances, I do actually enjoy exercise as long as there's something to watch and the gym isn't pumped full of bass-heavy dance crap. And by watch I mean decent sport or a good movie, not endless identikit MTV stations pumping out cover versions of cover versions. Accordingly, I seem to do most exercise during the Six Nations or around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Anyway, watch this space on the fitness front.

There will be more resolutions to follow - getting to grips with Indian cooking as per Iqbal's friendly challenge, for example - but that'll do for now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have manly work to do. The allotment needs strimming and then the waste needs burning. Rah. And if that isn't a good enough reason to then come home for a shower, a bacon sandwich and the last bit of leftover soup, I don't know what is...


26 December 2008

And so that was Christmas

So good Christmas all? Despite the relative disappointment of Doctor Who - a marked improvement on the Titanic shenanigans of 2007 but seriously, more Victoriana? Just how much use are they getting out of that set? - it was a pretty good one chez, er, us. That was partly down to Wallace & Gromit (just how good was that?!) but mostly down to the food.

Actually, even better than the food was the level of food. Despite having bought a whole turkey - so much better than the usual overpriced crown - the fridge today looks like, well, a regular fridge rather than the usual post-Christmas collection of vegetables, bits of cheese, sausage meat and animal legs.

There's a very simple reason for this: planning. Actually, there are two simple reasons for this: planning and the possession of a blender. I'm on record elsewhere (generally pub-related discussions) as declaring Boxing Day lunch far superior to Christmas Day. This year was nearly the turkey that bucked the trend but there's still something about the simplicity of Boxing Day (or Mayonnaise Day as a friend of a friend has it) that just edges it. Cold meats, mash, pickles, salad, coleslaw... come one, does it get better than that? Well, yes, it does, thanks to our smug planning and leftover soup.

At the end of lunch yesterday, we stripped the turkey carcass down into freezer bags (roll on the turkey curries, and more on that in due course), put all the Boxing Day stuff in a dish but gathered all the uneaten veg in another pot: a couple of spoonfuls of red cabbage, the sprouts (with the bacon and chestnuts), roasted parsnips, roasted carrots, and a couple of lumps of sweet potato. Today they all ended up in a pot, alongside the remains of last week's lamb stock, a splash of water and yesterday's gravy. A quick boil, a quick blitz and we've ended up with several pints of astonishingly good soup and a pleasantly empty fridge.

On the subject of leftovers, we've also decided to challenge ourselves for January. Can we survive for a month from the cupboards and freezer and not hit a supermarket / Borough market? We're still thrashing out the specifics of the 'rules' - can we buy milk, for example? - and we will be the first to admit that the freezer and wine racks are pretty well stocked, but hey, that's how it should be for anyone with a vague interest in food and if you can think of a better way of clearing old spices, tins and mystery containers for a fresh start, I'd be delighted to hear it. Expect a number of frugal blogs in early 2009...

20 December 2008

Talking Turkey

Not literally. Well, not yet. But thoughts are, inevitably, turning towards Christmas and what to serve. It's a quiet domestic one ahead for us, which is how we like it. If we go visiting, you get a huge meal in a 90 minute window and then have to nap throughout the afternoon, in between bouts of indigestion. If we stay at home, it's a nice breakfast - Eggs Benedict for me, caviar for her - and a bottle of something bubbly (I'm thinking Pol Roger this year). Then the presents (although the caviar, priced at ludicrous/kg is the main one) and a few phone calls to family and friends. And then around 1ish, we'll think of a starter. This year, we're aiming for Leek & Potato Soup as we still have a few potatoes in store and lots of leeks on the plot, and a homegrown appetiser seems fitting.

That will be followed, around 4ish, by the turkey. This year we've gone for the whole bird, for the first time, on the assumption that we can then get a decent curry and lots of cold meat out of the remains. We need the latter as, in another first, we're also at home for Boxing Day so are currently collecting pickles and chutneys like they're going out of fashion. Alongside the turkey, we'll be doing sprouts (much maligned, but we love 'em, particularly with bacon and chestnuts), some homemade stuffing (sweated onion, celery, a few blitzed breadcrumbs, hopefully some Giggly Pig sausagemeat, some clementine zest and anything else that looks / feels right or needs using up), roast spuds - probably with some roast carrots and 'snips - maybe a little swede and carrot mash, possibly some fondant potatoes, some Boston chipolatas wrapped in Tamworth bacon (assuming the final Borough shop on Monday goes well)... Hey, it's not a day for moderation.

For afters - usually around 7pm - we still have a chunk of Matthew Walker's Christmas pudding or we might save that for Boxing Day and skip ahead to the cheese. I hit Neal's Yard on Thursday and picked up some cheese for the weekend, so we should be left with a few bits of Innes Log, Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire, Colston Bassett Stilton, Duckett's Caerphilly (tasting AMAZING at the moment) as well as a large lump of Comte from the other stand. That should also be a good finish tomorrow to a (very large) slow roast shoulder of lamb... Oh, and we have a selection of Paul A Young's excellent chocolates as well.

Otherwise, it's been a good foodie week. A raclette from Bill Oglethorpe's stand at Borough, fish and chips and mushy peas - and a cuppa - with my dad at the Golden Hind, and yesterday, thanks to my mate Luke, a surprisingly good Thai lunch. For a fiver. In an Irish pub in East Finchley... Yeah. Who knew, eh? When Luke recommends Thai food, it's worth listening as, having lived in Thailand for 18 months, he knows his stuff. Maddens does a starter and main course for a measly £4.95. Golden parcels were excellent: crisp, yielding, delicately flavoured but the stand-out was the Drunken Noodles. According to Luke, they're so named as the rich sauce, fat noodles and big spice kick is the perfect hangover cure. In other words, I could really do with a plate now because Maddens also do a good pint of Guinness.

Mind you, a late night rarebit has helped stave off most of the morning after problems. The subject of rarebit came up during yesterday's sesh so when I got the munchies, it was the only thing that would satisfy. So, butter in a saucepan, and a little flour to make a roux. Into that goes lots of cheese: I trimmed the crumbly side off the Kitkham's and threw that in, together with some odd lumps of Mull of Kintyre that had been lurking in the fridge for a while. As that melts through, add a bottle of beer. In the absence of a hearty real ale, I figured the malty edge of the St Mungo would be good. And it was. As it simmered down to a decent, delicious sludge, I threw in a knackered tomato or two, a diced red onion, some ham waving goodbye to its useby date, and then smeared it over a thick slice of the tin loaf I made last week at Bertinet. Two minutes under a hot grill and you have the best post-pub nibbles imaginable.





14 December 2008

Give Us This Day...

It was shaping up to be a rather quiet week on the food front. Having satisfied my burrito craving - at El Burrito, on Charlotte Place, mostly because they do a damn fine cochinita but partly because I feel sorry for the poor bugger who stands on the corner dressed as a donkey - things slowed down. (Mind you, that detour up Charlotte Place has inspired a day of eating this coming week, but more on that later.) Dinners saw us plough through the remains of the spelt risotto, and the only bit of food-related fun saw much quaffing of Christmas Cosmos while helping young Will rate a number of artisan Christmas puddings for his Hello column. (Ah, Christmas pudding. My family firmly believes I hate Christmas pudding. I don't. Sure, I probably wouldn't order it out of choice, but I don't hate it. It's just that a pudding that's designed to swell up and fill any remaining gaps in the stomach is the last thing I want to see after Christmas lunch. But I digress...)

However, there was a method in my non-foodie madness: the knowledge that, come Saturday, I'd probably be so full of bread that I would, technically, be 60% sandwich. The reason? Attendance of the bread-making class at The Bertinet Kitchen in Bath. While a keen cook, bread is not something that I've ever attempted. In recent months, I've left that side of domestic life to the other half, who's been jumping in with British style baking any time I've done a roast. The results have ranged from the interesting to the excellent, with the more recent attempts firmly in the latter category. However, Mr Bertinet - as his name suggests - is French and the bread-making method he teaches is French. Apparently. I wouldn't know the difference if live yeast came up and bit me, frankly, but, after getting wrist deep in some seriously sticky dough, and having tasted the results - and I mean tasted and tasted and tasted them - whatever the method's nationality it's a winner.

Bertinet himself is an interesting chap and an excellent, amusing and very patient teacher. Mind you, he does look alarmingly like the janitor in Scrubs and has a similar sense of humour, as anyone who referred to the process as 'cooking' rather than 'baking' discovered. By the end of the five hour session, we'd got to grips - literally - with some basic dough recipes, learned some professional kitchen etiquette and a number of smart tricks to improve general baking. For example, the use of a baking stone. Forget the expensive pro stuff. A granite chopping board will do the trick. He recommended the £7.99 board from Morrisson's. The downside of this was having to visit two Morrisson's supermarkets today, an experience even worse than shopping in Tesco. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I am, so that's how it comes across. But holy crap that was a chavvy afternoon. I have never seen so many petty rows break out in a car park.

But back to Bertinet and his lessons. Will we use them? Yes, I think we will. The results are spectacular and the preparation of the dough - scoop up, flip backwards, hook forward, trap air, release hands quickly, repeat - has a Zen like quality only matched this year by a couple of hours of cast and reel fishing in Scotland. From that point alone, expect a few reports soon on disasters with dough and, hopefully, once the floor's been cleaned, some bread successes too.


9 December 2008

Splotto

Is there a more pleasing, straight-to-the-cockles dish than risotto? OK, I might concede that a roast spud made with the beefiest of beef dripping - as was enjoyed with a bloody marvellous glass of Black Sheep Ale at Roast last night - is a great winter warmer but, for a simple tea of excellent value, the risotto is both satisfying and a great way of using up the 'bits' that gather in the fridge.

As a change, tonight's supper had a twist. No rice. Instead, I finally used the Sharpham Park Spelt I picked up at Borough Market a few weeks back. There are, apparently, all sorts of GI benefits to this suddenly quite trendy grain but the most important quality: it tastes good. The texture is also perfect for a risotto although, given the change of key ingredient, it does need a different name - hence the title of this piece.

And so to the prep. After sweating down a couple of onions (including something I'd never seen before: a 'stealth' onion which was red inside but looked golden and 'normal' on the outside), I used the entire bag of spelt (guess what we're having for lunch the next few days?) tipped in about half a bottle of white wine (Spar's surprinsingly good £3.99 Frascati) and let it all get absorbed. Then came the stirring and the gradual addition of two pints of chicken stock. While the final bit was simmering down / getting sucked into the spelt, it was time for a rummage in the fridge. Hence three crispy rashers of Tamworth bacon I'd cooked at the end of last week, a couple of slices of air dried ham that had been lurking on the bottom shelf and a lump of Neal's Yard parmesan that had seen better days. While this proved a little tough for grating, a moment of inspiration (rare) saw me grab the vegetable peeler and hack away until I'd strimmed out at all the cheesy goodness.

Now, the big finish. A couple of handfuls of peas (a vegetable I loathed as a kid but which has recently become one of my favourite ingredients) and then the inevitable big lump of butter. As that melted in, lending the whole bubbling dish a marvellous sheen, the secret ingredient went in. I was once told by an Italian that the secret of Italian cooking was the final splash. In an acidic dish - a tomato sauce, or bolognaise, for example - you enrich it with a glug of milk. In a rich, creamy dish like risotto (or, indeed, splotto), you go the other way, hence a healthy dash of red wine vinegar. Whether it's true or not - and any Italian readers, I'm bowing to your knowledge here, get commenting! - it seems to bring the dish together.

Finally, one of the most important bits. Turn the heat off and let it cool. Risotto holds its heat phenomenally well - it's a good two-and-a-half hours since I cooked it and it's only just got cool enough to put the remainder in the fridge - and the tastes come out so much more when it's not got the quality of napalm. Delicious.

While I'm on, the day's movie entertainment was provided by the alarming Stuck. Directed by Stuart 'Re-Animator' Gordon, it's a grisly tale about a care home worker (played by Mena Suvari) who hits a homeless man (the ever reliable Stephen Rea) with her car. Instead of stopping and reporting the crime, because she's over the limit she goes home and hides the car in her garage. With the homeless man still embedded in it. Oh, and he's still alive... And, incredibly, it's based on a true story. No, really. Given Gordon's background, there's a lot of dark humour and, while it settles into a revenge-based thriller, the odd moral centre, and basis in fact, makes it a jaw-dropping experience.

Not one to eat over dinner though. How much fake blood?!

7 December 2008

Grabbed By The Tunnocks

It's been a day for reminiscing. First of all, the morning started with a simple reminder of how good a toasted ham and cheese sandwich can be on a wintery day. Then, thanks to the utterly charming Tale of Despereaux, I got a reminder - like I needed one when I'm married to an addict - of how satisfying soup can be. As a wee sidebar to the reminiscing, the film is the best mouse-themed animated paean to soup I've ever seen and a sweet and charming family movie to boot.

But the real nostalgia buzz has just hit. Picture the scene. It's a perfectly crisp December day outside. There's not a cloud in the sky, the light is astonishing, everything looks stunning. It's my favourite kind of day. Breath is coming in whisps everywhere you look. I arrive home, ruddy-faced and just the right side of cold, to a comfy flat where I raise my cuppa to the overall thermal brilliance of the new double glazing. And then the other half places a Tunnock's Caramel by my side and suddenly I'm 12 again. They say that smell is the most powerful smell when it comes to nostalgia, but taste and sight must be up there. Just the glint of that red and gold foil and a bite of that softly yielding wafer had me back at middle school - and is probably what's prompted the sudden craving for jacket potato for lunch.

Nostalgia doesn't work on some things. Wagon Wheels, for example, which really are much smaller than they used to be (and no, it's not just because I'm, er, much, much larger than I used to be). Or Viscounts which seemed a joy back in the day but are now just sickly sweet cream on a crap biscuit base underneath rubbish milk chocolate . Do they still do Clubs? Those used to remind me of tea at my granparents and had chocolate so thick you could break a molar. The last time I came across one, it was a hideous, cheap feeling concoction. But the Tunnock's Caramel seems the same as ever.

It's not alone, of course. Jaffa Cakes can still throw me back to the late 70s, the Penguin remains a dazzling little surge of sugary happiness, and the return of the Wispa has made me a very happy bunny, but the Tunnock's wafer is as gleefully old fashioned as it always was - and long may that remain the case.

As for today's nostalgia moment, that finished with the headline. Were we the only family to play 'By The Dooleys'? Readers of, ahem, a certain age may recall The Dooleys, a family band who had a few hits in the late 70s and had a name that sounded like a euphemism for male genitals. The game then was to find songs they should have covered, for example Upside Down... by The Dooleys. Or You've Got Me Dangling On A String... by The Dooleys. Or, possibly the best one ever, You Spin Me Round... by The Dooleys. Happy days...



6 December 2008

Gone East

Well, I feel better than I have any right to and yes I had a lovely time, thankyouverymuchforasking. As I think I hinted earlier in the week, last night was the date for a sort-of freelance Christmas party at Whitechapel's legendary Tayyabs. And a very fine time it was.

The 'ringleader' was the nigh-legendary Simon Majmumdar, one half of the nigh-legendary Dos Hermanos. Also in attendance was the other nigh-legendary half of the nigh-legendary Dos Hermanos, Simon's nigh-legendary brother - and Pret Christmas Dinner sandwich lover - Robin, plus a number of others, including William Leigh, the always charming networking supremo that is Iqbal Wahhab of the marvellous Roast and Petra from Choc-Star. Unsurprisingly then, the conversation revolved around food, while stuffing our faces with the astonishingly cheap fare on offer at Tayyabs.

It was also interesting to hear Iqbal's take on the restaurant and I have to say I probably agree with his theory that Tayyabs could charge more, use better meat and not lose any of its reputation but, regardless, the spicing is incredible and the breads the best I've had anywhere. And having eaten like (a very fat) king for a good two, three hours for the not-very-kingly sum of £18 a head, it's possibly churlish to make any criticism whatsoever.

After that, a few of us retired to Hawksmoor for cocktails. We had a pretty good trawl on and off menu, although the standout for me - after an impeccable Algonquin - was a straight bourbon finish. Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon, to be exact, as recommended by Lucas. And it was good.

And the eating continues today with a return to Mon Plaisir for another pre-Christmas celebration. The diet - well the plot to drop 30lbs - starts on January 2nd... You read it here first, chaps.


5 December 2008

Gone WEST

How you doing? Cold enough for you? I'm not knocking the temperature though. Two cases of beer have just been delivered and, as a result of the cold snap, they're the perfect temperature.

The beer is called St Mungo and, as the name suggests - should you know your Scottish history - it's from Glasgow. And it's German. Sort of. It comes from the excellent WEST brewery, run by the extremely interesting Petra Wetzel. She and her father questioned the lack of decent Bavarian-style beers available in the UK and did something about it. The result, thanks to German expertise, German ingredients and the incredibly pure Scottish waters, is a light, deceptively malty, crisp, cold, lingering beer. It's a stunner.

I was lucky enough to be shown around WEST by Petra earlier this year and it's a fascinating place. First and foremost, it's an excellent bar and restaurant. Secondly, as you can see if you peer over the wall in the corner, it's a microbrewery. Until now, you've had to go there to enjoy the beers. Now... well, you've still probably got to go there, but we're trying to get the St Mungo, their first bottled beer, some coverage in the south. If anyone's interested, shout...

3 December 2008

Peak of the Week

So that's the hump of the week been and gone. Not a classic day in terms of food although I have attempted to eat my body weight in Minstrels while watching Twilight (EMO teeny vampire tale with preachy celibacy theme: think Angel crossed with the Jonas Brothers); Role Models (frequently hilarious broad comedy about two energy drink reps forced to do community service and 'buddy' with two children) and Baz Luhrman's insane Australia (indefinable, sprawling hybrid of Pearl Harbour and City Slickers with about 18 other films for good measure). Mind you, there was time for a little Baozi action earlier. I probably don't want to know which cut of pork was in the noodles but damn it was good: fiery, flavoursome, filling, three 'f' words you want from any noodle dish. The excesses of the spice - and that's speaking as one who's experienced and enjoyed Dave's Insanity, the best / most aptly named sauce on the market - were balanced by the peanut salad: cooked peanuts, with carrot, pickled cucumber, celery and tofu skin. The tofu skin resembled... well, the organ I suspect made up the bulk of the noodle dish's protein, but it's seriously good. A pork baozi was superfluous but how can you resist? I mean, £1.20 for the best damn pork bun ANYWHERE? A world beating pork bun for less than a Sunday paper? Or roughly the same price as a double cheeseburger from the golden arches? You'd have to be a better, and thinner, man than I to pass that opportunity up.

The quick feisty lunch kept me ticking along til 10.30pm (and if I hadn't noticed the houmous in the fridge, I could probably have kept going til the am) and prompted a discussion - which my wife may well divorce me over - about how boring most Chinese food is. Yes, there are some great dishes, sometimes only dim sum will do it, and there are certainly days when I'd kill for a duck pancake (or a good crispy beef, mmm), but so many times, in so many places, everything ends up tasting the bleeding same. Not so other similar cuisines such as Thai where, as Will pointed out, the sweet and sour balance is key, or, it has to be said, Szechuan Chinese as demonstrated by Bar Shu and Baozi. In the latter case, two mains, two sides and a pot of tea got us a whole heap of flavours and a little change from a twenty. That's pretty darn grumbleproof, if you ask me.


2 December 2008

Can You Fillet?

Is fillet the most boring cut of beef? In a word... yes.

Woah, easy at the back, calm down, calm down... It's not fighting talk. I know that, when confronted with a menu offering a big lump of prize fillet steak, it's all too easy to order it and, yes, enjoy it for what it is: a decadent, soft dinner with an expensive feel. However, thanks to Ryan Hattingh of Gaucho (not to mention William Leigh of The Boy Done Food who set things up) I now know the truth. EVERY other cut of beef just tastes better.

Ryan is the Operations man at Gaucho, a big South African bloke with a passion for beef. This morning, at Gaucho in Smithfields (and how good is that match of venue and location?), Ryan took Will and I through the basics of the Gaucho menu, which boiled down to a masterclass in ceviche and steak preparation. And utterly fascinating it all was.

Having over done the Negra Modelo a little last night (and mixing it over the course of five hours with Ontario Chardonnay, Moosehead lager and some rather good Eis Wine), the energy levels were somewhat lacking. A couple of spoonfuls of ceviches though and life was good again.

As any fule kno - well, possibly - the ceviche is essentially raw fish 'cooked' with a citric acid, such as lemon juice. Ryan took us through three: an excellent salmon version, where the lemon juice is mixed with olive oil because the oil helps stop the fish 'overcooking; one with sea bass, again using the oil / lemon trick, combined with mango and green papaya; and finally, the stand-out prawn variety. The latter was almost a twist on the prawn cocktail (and will be if I get my 70s dinner party sorted for January). Thin slices of slightly cooked prawn cured in lemon juice for a minute or so until they pass from translucence to opaque white. The juice is drained off and in goes the Ecuadorian sauce. This is a combination of roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers, blitzed with orange juice and tabasco. Think 1000 Island dressing with decent flavour or really good ketchup with a decent but not overpowering 'four second' bite (i.e., the time it takes to go from initial taste sensation to chili warmth). And then think of something that matches these descriptions and somehow doesn't simultaneously. Whatever, it's a sauce I'm going to enjoy experimenting with at home. The prawns were then heaped with a little side 'salad' of avocado. We tried pure avocado, but also got to sample Gaucho's usual pairing, the excellent guacamole. Their secret? Alongside the avocado and finely chopped red onion sits little flecks of ginger, another trick that I'll be attempting to pass off as my own sometime soon.

After that, it was to the grill station for a lesson in steak cooking and preparation. It was way too detailed to go into here, but resulted in a lunch platter - between four of us in case you're my GP - of sirloin, fillet, rump and rib-eye. This allowed a rare chance to compare these four popular cuts for texture and taste. The winner... everything but fillet. Look , it's good, and feels luxurious and, in Gaucho's case, certainly tasted of beef, but the low fat content means much less flavour than the marbled joys of the others. Or, indeed, the thick strip of fat atop the sirloin. Yum.

So, if you're the sort of person who takes the safe fillet option, go fattier instead. Let it cook for longer - that melts the fat and flavours the beef, you see - and then enjoy...

1 December 2008

Monday Monday

Another week, another load of foodie opportunities. And a movie or two. On that note, why is food in cinemas so bad? Yes, you can take the Curzon Soho out of this rant - thank you Konditor & Cook for your slightly overpriced but generally lovely stuff - but are popcorn, something purporting to be nachos and average hotdogs really the best the chains can do?

Inevitably, anyone with a vague interest in food is forced to find somewhere outside the cinema and smuggle stuff in or wolf down a quick snack before going in. It's not ideal but, on the plus side, I do now know of assorted little places around Leicester Square and Soho, from great pot-stickers in Chinatown, to the Californian-style burritos on Berwick Street, via a decent falafel or a big bowl of spicy soup. I guess I'd better start charting these, so stand by your beds. Or your monitors, which is probably more appropriate.

Today, I have to - have to! ha! - interview Alesha Dixon in Kensington so sense a Ranoush coming on. Is there a better chicken shawarma available anywhere? Please tell me if there is. One of those, a mango juice...utter garlic-infused, fatty and sweet perfection. That'll be followed later by some Canadian food at one of Food4Media's (usually good) networking events. I really don't know what to expect? Chicken wings perhaps?

Tomorrow is looking exciting as well. A sweetbreads class at Gaucho with William 'The Boy Done Food' Leigh, a little work in the pm on a new idea we've had - more to follow when it's gone past the planning stage - and then bowling, Woodford Reserve cocktails and some of All Star Lanes impreccable bar snacks with the always entertaining Nidal and the chaps from Square Mile magazine.

After that, there's Thursday burrito challenge to look forward to - who does the best burritos in London? Wait til Thursday and find out - and an afternoon of cocktails, great company and delicious Indian food at New Tayyabs on Friday. Seriously, this is so much better than work...