With the weekend nearly over, it's time to sit back, hands on stuffed belly, and contemplate the last 72 hours of consumption. And consumption is a word that fits.
The most conspicuous act of it took place in a back street of Mayfair on Friday afternoon, with a second stint judging at the Academy of Chocolate Awards. Which is about all I can tell you about that. Standouts were few and far between but that's not a reflection on a plethora of average chocolatiers, more a reflection that the majority of bars were of a similar quality. Against each other, they may appear average but compared to yer-common-or-garden off-the-shelf chocolate? It probably bodes well for the state of the industry as a whole. Individually some had hints of burnt beans, or too much cocoa butter, or assorted other flaws but cast your mind back just five years or so and would you have found so many people at least attempting to produce something better than Cadburys, etc.? I think it's all vaguely encouraging.
Anyway, can't go into specifics for reasons of confidentiality plus, of course, it was a blind tasting session: we won't even know the identities of the bars tasted until the winners are announced in due course.
So, after four hours of chocolate - and 54 bars, if memory serves - I was a little "stoned" and, in true "munchies" fashion, the bag of Neal's Yard Cheese I'd picked up pre-judging more than hit the spot. As a former cheesemonger, I'm rather biased towards NYD's product but, at the moment, there are a few tasting as good as I've ever had. The Tunworth, for example, is joyously cabbage-y and creamy, and the Dorstone is fresh and rich. Over in the Montgomery's stable, life is even better than normal. I'm a great advocate that you should try everything on the shelf - Lincolnshire Poacher, the Mull, Keen's, etc - because, on their day, they can beat the Monty's. However, where Monty's scores so highly is the consistency. Even on an average day, it's very good. When it's in the kind of form you can now get at NYD? There's nary a cheese to touch it... Something good happened to those cows in late 2006 then. Mind you, the Beenleigh Blue at the moment is, frankly, astonishing - and a joy to cook with.
Right. The news you've been waiting for. Possibly. Or at least the news I've been waiting to bring you. I made a curry: a chicken jalfrezi. Admittedly it was from a kit but hey, it involved fresh(ish) spices and was as good a starting point as any for understanding a few flavours. Somewhat inevitably, it tasted a lot better today once the flavours had had a chance to fester but it wasn't bad at all and the homemade naan's were excellent - although I can't take any credit for those.
Perhaps the best bit about the Indian feast was the chance to hit Meera's Xpress. Ignore the slightly annoying missing vowel - and, indeed, the latin test text still plastered on the website - but this small chain does vegetarian snacks of some quality including two things I am addicted to: puri and chaat. What is it about these things I adore? The flavours? The chance to throw unlimited chutneys on a plate? The contrast of textures and sweet and sour flavours? Tell you what. I'll have another plateful and let you know.
Finally, I think I may have a new mission. While the the heroic foodie duo of Dos Hermanos are seeking the best burgers in London and proper fish supper, and I can't make up my mind what constitutes the perfect chip, I realised today that there is a dish I can pontificate on. Scrambled eggs. Soft doesn't mean uncooked. Butter is not an optional extra. It is not a health food. There is no excuse for cheap eggs. Yep. Scrambled eggs will be my Holy Grail for the foreseeable - and, as a by-product of that, I might just have to sample a few brunches as well. Oh dear...