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10 posts from August 2005

31 August 2005

Gail's ****

There is a theory that no two countries with a McDonald's will go to war with each other, the theory is based on the idea that if everywhere becomes sufficiently homogenised we won't want to bomb the living daylights out of each other.  My own personal take on this is that it is more likely that no two countries who can make decent pain aux raisins will go to war with each other.  If people were busy perfecting the sublime combination of dough, raisins, sugar and a bit of posh custard, they would be far too engrossed (both mentally and physically) to care about bombing the living daylights out of each other.

It is for this reason that I consider a good pain aux raisins to be a very important thing and why I like Gail's so much.  It's a bit tough to describe what Gail's is, as it's more than a baker, more than a coffee shop but not quite a deli.  It's like Starbucks but with good coffee and homemade cakes, or another way to put it is that it's like it's near neighbour Maison Blanc, but not quite as poncy and fewer folderols.   

Gail's is in some how related to Baker & Spice - a very good bakery - in Queen's Park.  My understanding is that whilst a lot of the baked goods at Gail's are made on site, quite a few of the cakes are brought over from the larger Baker & Spice in Queen's Park.  My pain aux raisins was one of the things baked on site.  It was flaky, with a good density of raisins, a lot of butter and not too much sugar.  Unlike my trip to Maison Kayser, it hit the right note. 


Apart from a coffee I didn't have anything else there, but the bread looked excellent and interestingly they sell milk from Daylesford Farm and other well sourced organic products.  They also have a small book section and when I was browsing through the selection one of the bakers came out to talk lovingly about the books.  This is an excellent place for either a take-away cake, some top notch bread or simply a coffee to watch the world of Hampstead drift by.  In some ways, it seems more suited to the culinary heaven that is Marylebone High Street, rather than the increasingly commercial Hampstead High Street.  Nonetheless I hope they do well and if it doesn't work out, I think they should be sent in as crack squads in global peace negotiations, pain aux raisins at the ready.  If they did, peace and serenity would reign.

Gail's, 64 Hampstead High Street, London, NW3 1QH, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7794 5700

Google Maps
Google Earth (download)

What others think
As far as I can tell, no-one's got there before me.

17 August 2005

Do things change?

I've just read a disturbingly believable story of a Jewish couple having 'Jew Couple' written on their bill, rather than their table number. 

So, this is what some restaurants mean by searching for the golden days of dining: Berlin, 1933.  These guys might not be Nazis, but they are clearly morons.

Food bloggers of the world unite

A food blogger am I.  Or at least I must be because I've just received my first food blogging meme, or at least I think it's a meme because frankly I don't have too much of a clue what a meme is.  Anyway, if you too are a food blogger go and sign Tana's map

Oh and whilst you're at it, sign mine as well - it's over there, on the right-hand side of the screen, just below the 'Bloglines' button.  You can also find it here.

12 August 2005

You cannot be serious

This from the New York Times, is probably the most depressing article I've ever read.  How the journalist can justify parents taking their kids out for dinner with the sole intention of watching TV, is beyond me.  With the exception of the family that doesn't have a TV at home I fail to see the point of paying to watch TV.  In no way can going out for dinner and watching TV be considered a social activity, nor can it be considered a good way to improve a child's social interaction. 

The article refers to the dining table as having a "sanctified aura", it seems to imply that this isn't such a good thing and what we all need are TVs next to our knives and forks.  This is barmy.

11 August 2005

I Google, I Google, I Google, I Google, I Googoogoogle, Googoogoogle, Googling all over the World

I've recently fallen in love with Google Maps and Google Earth.  It would seem I'm not alone and there are far too many people out there with lots of time on their hands who are playing around with both of these tools for their own purposes.  Even I have, to a limited extent on my reviews.  Take a look under the address of the restaurant, say Refettorio, and you'll see what I mean.

Others have taken this playing around much further than I have.  One of my favourites is this offering from the US.  It basically plots Kosher restaurants and food shops throughout the US.  Now obviously it's appeal is limited to the US and to those interested in Kosher food, but as a concept it works very well.  What better than being able to see, rather than just guess, exactly where your nearest restaurant is, and because both GMaps and GEarth allow you to add links, photos etc, you can not only see where your favourite restaurant is located, but also read everything there is to know about it.  I'm hoping that Ari, who designed the PilotYid (not entirely PC naming that) site, might do something similar for the UK.

Before I laid eyes on Ari's site I was mulling over the idea of developing something myself, on which to mark all the restaurants/shops/markets etc that I refer to on here.  This would mean you would be able to see where things are located in relation to each other, rather than by themselves.  I'm just not sure my programming skills stretch that far.  Consider it a work-in-progress.

10 August 2005

This site is for local people

No don't run off, it's not really.  I just got thinking about whether it would be possible to do what some Californians (natch) are trying to do.  Locavores is trying to launch a campaign where one only eats locally produced food, in this case within 100m of San Francisco for a month.

In theory it would be possible to do in London, what with Kent (the garden of England) on our doorstep, nowhere in the UK being more than 60m from the sea and abundant cattle farms this shouldn't pose a problem.  However, the chances of actually sourcing the stuff would be a nightmare.  I don't think the farmers market concept is well enough developed to give you easy regular access.  I suppose the closest one could get to this would be to shop regularly at Waitrose and make sure you only bought from their Leckford Estate range, which at 70 odd miles from my door means I would pass the Locavores test.

Gifts, gifts, gifts

I'm not a big birthday person - well I'm  big person I'm just not all that fussed about birthdays.  However, I've done well this year.  I've posted about my various dining-out experiences and Silverbrowess made me and my side of the family an astoundingly good meal based on what we had for dinner on our wedding night - a version of coq au vin courtesy of Leith's Seasonal Bible.  I'll post the recipe up shortly but it was stonking.  Silverbrowess is not always that confident in the kitchen - not helped by me sticking my nose in - but she did a great job (yes, I do know what's good for me, she will be reading this) but still needs to get to grips with onions and appreciate that just because they make her cry, they don't hate her.

Bjs_cookie_dough_ice_creamApart from the dinner, the other gift Silverbrowess gave to me was a Gaggia Gelateria.  Now this monster of a piece of kit is the answer to any desire to make ice-cream.  For some reason I've had a hankering to make ice-cream for a while and I wasn't all that subtle about it.  Following a slightly tense moment over an espresso maker last birthday, this was the perfect gift.  The inclusion of Ben & Jerry's recipe book and
Rosemary Moon's The Ice Cream Machine Book ensured I had a weekend of cream and ice.  I'd been using semi-skimmed milk rather than full fat which I subsequently realised was de rigeur, nonetheless I produced the smoothest, richest ice-cream I've ever been privileged to taste.  The fact that it had enormous hunks of cookie dough throughout it, meant that I could only just about handle three scoops of this elixir before I passed out.

My other gift of note was a Weber Smokey Mountain.  I had the choice of opting for a new bike and therefore try to cycle off some of the extra weight or going for one of these babies and adding to the weight.  I know I made the right choice.  I'm embarrassed to say it's still in the box, however, the next couple of weeks have smoking written all of them.

One final gift I mustn't forget, McGee on Food and Cooking, another item on the culinary wish list for some time.  I don't think I'll be the next Heston but I do look forward to learning the perfect way to cook a green bean.