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5 posts from December 2008

23 December 2008

Best ofs

The end of year inevitably brings a round-up of best-of meals.  They tend to be fairly monochrome - often it is just one reviewer, in one country, very often one city.  However well respected the author is, the lists are often all rather predictable.

Which is exactly what sets the Opinionated About Best of 2008 apart.  Uber-gourmand Steve Plotnicki approached a number of chefs, restaurant owners, food writers and bloggers what their best experiences were this year.  It makes for fascinating reading, because the restaurants and chefs are dotted around the globe and as a group, you're not going to get a much more informed bunch of diners.

Some highlights for me are:

Long-time friends of Silverbrow on Food, Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa of Ideas in Food named Per Se as their meal of the year, with Mike Lata, owner of FIG as having the most potential.

Andy Hayler, the Michelin bagger, named Christian Bau's cooking at Schloss Berg his meal of the year, with Ambassade de l'Ile as the most potential.

Claude Bosi, chef patron at Hibiscus said Noma was his meal of the year, with Momofuku having the most potential.

Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns said Els Casals was the most beautiful lunch he'd ever had, let alone this year, with Oriol Rovira having the most potential.

As for me, I named the Grill at The Dorchester, when it was still under Aiden Byrne, as the best meal with Aaya having the most potential. 

I've just realised I never wrote up Aaya for the blog, which is a bit silly.  It's a while ago now so can't quite remember all the details.  It probably requires another visit, just to see whether it's fulifilling that potential.

Sorry to be a doom-monger, but as I've said before, I wonder how many of these places will be going in a year's time.

11 December 2008

What to buy

With the magazines full of what to buy your nearest and dearest food obsessive, I thought I might as well get in on the game.

If you're serious about cooking, the best way to improve it is by learning from the experts.  I loved my day with Dan Lepard, he's repeating the sourdough course in January.  Or, how about a master class with two Michelin starred chef Eric Chavot, at The Capital.

I like the idea of Square Mile Coffee's six or twelve month coffee subscriptions.  For a one-off charge of £45 or £90 respectively, they will send you every month a 350g bag of coffee beans.  This is one for the coffee connoisseur: they only send out beans, and the beans are roasted for filter brewing rather than espresso.  Or a cheaper option for the coffee lover is a tasting event.

During the course of the year I got a bit too excited about the raft of high quality books due to published and generally I haven't been disappointed.

Although, unfortunately you can't get The Big Fat Duck Cookbook for £60 any more, it is available at £80, a decent discount to the £100 coverprice.  If you ask me it's great value for money.  I emphasise the word me in the last sentence.  I know a lot of people think I'm insane for saying that.  But for me, it is well worth it.

I'm slightly sceptical about A Day at elBulli and not sure I'd have bought it if the great man hadn't signed it with a little dedication to Silverbrowlette.  Grant Achatz's book Alinea has done a better job of living up to the hype, although the website associated with it, Mosaic, has underwhelmed.

A great bargain at the moment is Thomas Keller's new book Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide which Amazon are selling for £20, a whopping 60% discount to the coverprice.  You can get Keller's seminal tome The French Laundry Cookbook for £20 as well.  A little more expensive at £28 is Bouchon. It's bouef bourgignon recipe is still my favourite.

This year saw the publication of the softback edition of Made in Italy: Food and Stories one of my favourite books. It's great value at £12.99.

Aiden Byrne's Made in Great Britain was a bit lower profile than some of the others published during the year, but is beautiful.  I imagine it's the type of food available at his new gaffe.

Another great purchase this year has been Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts. I haven't yet got round to writing up about my tarte tatin, but suffice to say it was one of my proudest culinary achievements this year.

For more ideas take a look through the little shop I've setup with Amazon where I've even created departments for your shopping pleasure: essential reading; my full library; Jewish cookbooks; food writing and kitchen kit.

02 December 2008

Don't go local

I've never been that keen on the local movement, so much of it is so disingenuous. Additionally, it spawned the world's most ridiculous word.

It's also no guarantee of good food. As Shola's rule #37 proves.

01 December 2008

Learning from cookbooks?

The Economist offshoot Intelligent Life has an interesting take on the vitality or not of French food.  A story told through the recipes of The Complete Robuchon and Fernand Point's republished Ma Gastronomie.

I've been giving a lot of thought to the role of the cookbook recently, what will all the hoo-ha around Ferran Adrià's latest last week and my childish excitement and subsequent love affair with The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.  

I'm still mulling my thoughts over, but as the Intelligent Life article indicates, they are more than about food, they are historical documents written from one very particular angle.  I know this isn't the most profound insight, but taken to its logical conclusions there are some interesting outcomes.  For example, I wonder whether in twenty years time, the likes of me will be more excited by Jamie Oliver's works or Heston Blumenthal's. 

In many ways I owe Jamie more than I owe Heston.  True, Heston was responsible for my best meal to date, but it was only because of the influence of Jamie's first book that really got me thinking about food technically.  I would guess I'm not the only one to be so influenced, although some may choose to keep quiet about it.

But which is more important and which will have more longevity?  I assume Heston, given that Jamie cooks in the vernacular, unlike Heston, Fernand, Adrià and Robuchon.  But maybe Jamie is more important because his influence is greater even if he hasn't done anything to progress the culinary canon.  He may have entrenched it, but others have introduced innovation and moved things on.  It's a though I want to return to.

Whilst I'm on the subject of important books, for those not twittered-up, I spotted that Thomas Keller's latest, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide is currently on sale at a 60% discount on Amazon.co.uk

Charidee & eGullet

I imagine a fair few readers here also read Word of Mouth, if only because you can't get enough of me.

But just in case you're don't, Jay Rayner has just posted about a whole bunch of goodies the Guardian is auctioning off, including a meal with the great man himself, lunch at the chef's table at Marcus Wareing and a meal with Bob Geldof.

Rayner also calls out eGullet for yet again showing its true colours. I find it quite surprising that a supposedly charitable organisation could be so self-serving. Yes, it might have Ts&Cs, but still.