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8 posts from March 2008

29 March 2008

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook


Sorry, I'll calm down.

I've been waiting for this for sometime. It's coming people, the book we've all been waiting for, or at least I have. (Sorry Jay, not referring to you this time, but here's a plug anyway.)

Amazon now have Heston Blumenthal's The Big Fat Duck Cookbook listed for sale from 6 October 2008. List price is £100 and you can pre-order now. No doubt there'll be some discounting, but sod it, there goes some of Siverbrowlet(te)'s inheritance.

From reading the blurb on Amazon's website I'm hopeful this will be a chefs book, rather than simply a cookbook. I want it to be Essence or The French Laundry Cookbook writ fat. Going on Heston's past form, I'm guessing the book will be very detailed, fairly complex, but written in an engaging way.

I've no doubt that for most people who receive it, it will be added to the pantheon of must-haves-to-read-but-unlikely-to-ever-be-cooked-from cookbooks. I'll try not to fall into that category, but don't fancy my chances.

There's nothing yet about it on The Fat Duck website, but I'm guessing there will be soon.

Makes me think that I'm due a return visit. I cannot wait.

[Strokes chin. Exit, pursued by a rumbling tummy and a light wallet.]

UPDATE: Further information on his publisher's website.

26 March 2008

Watch this man

There can't be that many 15 year olds who eat twice at Per Se, Thomas Keller's flagship New York restaurant, especially alone. So it shouldn't be such a surprise that Nick N, author of Foodie at Fifteen, got special treatment, including a signed French Laundry cookbook, at the end of his last meal.

I was reminded of Heston Blumenthal. It seems a meal at the age of fifteen was a seminal moment for him as well.

23 March 2008

Gordon to “rectify” Pétrus

I'd heard the rumours that all was not well between Gordon Ramsay and his protege and head-chef of Pétrus, Marcus Wareing, but I was surprised at how public Ramsay has gone.

In a full-page article in the Business section of today's Sunday Times he mentions that one of the things that made 2007 his annus horibilus were the “inconsistencies” at Pétrus.  But don't worry, he's planning to “recitfy” them.

Oh right, those inconsistencies must include winning a second Michelin star.

Wareing's contract is up with Gordon Ramsay Holdings sometime later this year and from what I've heard Wareing is gagging to leave.  Not bloody surprising.  In  my experience, he is a fantastic chef, with a proven track record.  He doesn't need to put up with crap like this.  I'd love to know a bit more about what actually caused the bad blood.  Can it simply be Ramsay's concern at being overshadowed?  Or is filthy lucre involved?

What with Bjorn van der Horst, former head chef of La Noisette leaving the GRH fold last week, it seems that Ramsay is shedding good chefs as quickly as he's acquiring gastropubs.

UPDATE: As Paul points out in the comments below, Wareing and Ramsay have split.  According to the Daily Mail article, Wareing will have a contract directly with Maybourne Hotels, owners of the Berkeley, where Pétrus is currently located.  Interesting to know who owns the right to use the name Petrus, Maybourne or Gordon Ramsay Holdings?

20 March 2008

Starbucks buys Clover

I've been intrigued by the Clover since I first read about it a couple of months ago. $11,000 sounds a lot for some drip coffee, but then again, I've no idea how much the La Marzocco machines are that serve up my daily latte at Monmouth Coffee.

But as John Gapper suggests, knowing that Starbucks now owns the company takes the shine off somewhat.

I take it this is the latest step by Starbucks to regain its position as a premium coffee seller and differentiate itself from the likes McDonalds which has been encroaching on its space.

Maybe we're seeing the end of super sweet, cream laden excuses for caffeinated drinks?

11 March 2008

Telepathy: Eating Albion gets TV deal

I have twittered about this already, but I know many of you are non-twittering luddites. So for those of you who fall into this camp, I wanted to point out that Eating Albion now has a TV deal. Yes, that is right, this turn of events was foretold, but no-one ever listens.

I know other food bloggers have got book deals, but I can't think of another UK food blogger that has got a TV deal out of their blog. Nice work young man.

Now if I could only have as much luck predicting the winner of the Gold Cup this Friday.

09 March 2008

Knife Skills

It's a cliche and I know good writing abhors cliches, but one really shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

The cover says of Knife Skills has a silhouette of a santoku style knife, the sub-title is "How to carve, chop, slice. fillet". The authors are Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter and Lyn Hall.

If ever there was a book-cover to draw me in, this was it. I have a thing about kitchen technique at the moment and since buying my rather expensive Japanese knife last year, I've been trying to hone my knife skills. Additionally compelling was the fact that the authors were such luminaries who, with the exception of Lyn Hall, had collaborated on my favourite technique book The Cook's Book.

What I love about The Cook's Book is how comprehensive it is. It doesn't treat the reader like a moron. It assumes a basic level of knowledge and even if you don't have that, it'll hold your hand until you get it. It was also interesting to have different sections of the book written by some of the world's leading chefs. Who better to learn about desserts from than Pierre Hermé or Ferran Adrià instruct you on foams?

But, the one area it always lacked for me was specifics on knife skills. Sure, throughout the book they show you what mirepoix should look like, or how to take the wishbone out of a chicken, but there was never anything specifically dedicated to knives. So Knife Skills, created by the same people that wrote my all time fave, well it had to be winner.

And it is. To a point.

It is, if you want a book that explains different styles of knives (the section I found most interesting) or how to perform specific tasks like bone a leg of lamb or fillet fish. The problem is, much of it is swiped directly from The Cook's Book. Removing that wishbone? Filleting a round fish? Filleting a flat fish? Preparing an artichoke? Check, check, check and check. And there are many more besides.

Of the three chefs whose names are on the front covers of both Knife Skills and The Cook's Book, Marcus Wareing wrote the foreward and the section on meat. Shaun Hill wrote the sections on stocks & soups, poultry & game birds, fruit & nuts. Charlie Trotter's sections were fish & shellfish and vegetables. Much of them are repeated verbatim plus a few extra photos in the new book. I felt a bit conned, even though mine was a review copy that I thankfully didn't have to pay for.

So my best advice is this: If you already own the Cook's Book, go into a book shop and take a look at the first part of Knife Skills, the bit about different types of knives. You may decide it's worth buying for that section alone. You may not. You should however ensure you go and buy yourself a decent blade and then stick to The Cook's Book.

If you don't own The Cook's Book my suggestion would be, go and buy it and then see my suggestion for those who own it.

05 March 2008

Sour kraut

For those who have eaten my home made sausages, don't worry, I don't follow the German airforce recipe.

I like the justification from the airmen: they both "had an interest in cooking".

It reminds me of a story told by a former classmate who went off to study medicine. Medics at a London teaching hospital used to frequent the bars of posh hotels in the West End. They'd ask the barman for a Bloody Mary, but told him to hold the tomato juice. Once the vodka, tabasco, worcestershire sauce etc was sitting in front of them, they'd take out a needle, draw blood, empty it into the glass and promptly down the mixture. I suppose they'd justify it by saying they have an interest in drinking.