Thursday, 12 November 2009

A Night In The Life Of The Food Urchin

So another humdrum day finally turns into night and it's time to release the shackles of the print monkey. It's time to clock off, it's time to nip into the loo to get changed, it's probably time for a quick spanish shower too but most importantly, it's time for the Food Urchin to come out and play. Sayonara suckers, it's business time!

The Food Urchin makes his way to Covent Garden for the first stop of the evening, Rules and cocktails. First he's got to wait for a compadre, so just hangs on the street corner, nice and loose. The crowds swarm around him, pausing to look and he knows what they're thinking. Who's that cool cat? He's got razor sharp style, think boho-chic meets Man at C&A. He's got the square jaw and funky frames. He got no hair but he don't care. Yeah baby, he knows he's money.

Patrick soon arrives, jeans fashionably baggy around the rear and they waltz into Old England, upstairs to the bar and find that the Dude, another compadre, has secured a table. High fives all round, seats taken, fingers snapped, the waiter appears. "3 Screaming Vikings!". Brian comes over and wants to know how the trio know about his new cocktail which isn't even on the list yet. Poker faced, the Food Urchin tells him they have their sources and to "just make me a bloody cocktail Brian!". The others suck in the air fast, Brian bows and turns, shaken but not stirred and the Food Urchin calmly nods before opening his mouth, throwing a peanut up in air. It bounces off his glasses. He still manages to look cool though with a nonchalant shrug. The drinks come swiftly. Then the Babe from Burma swans in, she's late but hey, aren't they always. She orders a Black Mojito which comes just as quick. The gang indulge in a little light conversation before draining their glasses. It's soon time to move and the Food Urchin is back out on the streets, the streets of London town.

Second destination is The House of St Barnabas on Greek Street, which from the outside looks like one of those private members clubs that's for members only. The Food Urchin leads the pack and goes up to the doorman. The doorman doesn't recognise him, he must be new in this city. So not to cause a fuss, the Food Urchin takes a note from his pocket and slips it discreetly into Mr Universe's hand before pushing past. The doorman looks down at his palm, confused that he's holding a receipt from Tescos. Ha, the Food Urchin pulls that Jedi mind trick shit all the time. The group then walk up some stairs and slink into a room where the others are waiting. The Food Urchin recognises some faces, it's the usual babes, Tiffany, Livvy, Miffy and Squiffy. The girls from Saucy PR and Phaidon are there too. Waiters mill about dispensing champagne and canapes from silver trays and mirrors. It's a beautiful scene with beautiful people, Gilbert and George look down from the wall approvingly or at least they seem to be, you can never tell with those two.

As a waiter skims past, the Food Urchin grabs a glass and a gorgeous looking morsel, he takes a bite and raises his eyebrows. "Damn these salt and pepper beef skewers are good!" he shouts to no-one in particular. And so he takes another, this time its tuna tataki with radish, apple and mustard and his eyes roll with pleasure. He spies a steak tartare drive-by so makes another snatch and bang, it's in the mouth, melting away. The Food Urchin then feels a tap on the shoulder and he turns to face Laura, one of the Saucy girls. "This is Lyndy Redding of Absolute Taste, these are her canapes we're enjoying this evening". The Food Urchin shakes her hand and makes lots of approving murmuring noises with pointing gestures to his pursed lips and bulging cheeks.There is a brief awkward pause but the Food Urchin swallows down hard and coolness resumes. Laura then says, "Here is your copy of the book by the way, sorry we didn't get it to you before this evening" And the Food Urchin thinks book? What book? But as she passes the hefty tome over, he suddenly remembers, ah yes Coco. With so many launches, so many events, it's hard to keep track but no matter, the Food Urchin switches on and pulls out the file from his cerebral database. OK, read that as a piece of paper kept in his jacket pocket. He smiles, takes the book and casually wanders over to a corner of the room.

Top shelf stuff

The Food Urchin's first impression is that this a seriously big book. Heavy, weighty, powerful. But when you've got 10 world leading masters choosing 100 contemporary chefs, it's hardly going to be a pamphlet is it. Ha! The Food Urchin chuckles to himself, shakes his head and grabs another glass of champagne. All the bad boys are there. Ramsay, Adria, Henderson and erm some other really influential big guns that the Food Urchin has heard of, somewhere. In turn they've picked the creme de la creme, the young cats that are up and coming, the next big thing, the new kids on the block. The Food Urchin isn't surprised at some of the inclusions. Hell it reads like his little black book at times but still the Food Urchin approves of the biographies, the recipes and the beautiful photography. It all looks pretty sexy, horny even. The Food Urchin finds himself pawing the pages, getting hot under the collar as he flicks through, eyes widening, sweat collecting on his upper lip. Oh man, the food, it's all about the gorgeous food. Oh my god yes, yes, yes! He then looks up and finds Lyndy staring at him. "Hey Lyndy baby, did you know you're in here?" he shouts pointing but she just turns and runs out of the room. Maybe she doesn't, the Food Urchin says to himself. He looks back at the book one more time, it's going to look the absolute money on his coffee table he thinks. Or someone else's, Christmas is just around the corner after all. And then he stashes the food porn away in his rucksack like a dirty little secret because it's time to go. Yeah it's time to get the party started.

Don't you know who I am?

To celebrate the birth of this beautiful baby called Coco, the Food Urchin and gang are visiting three restaurants for three separate courses to sample the culinary delights of three different chefs. A gourmet gallop in other words. Some of the guys are in total awe at the prospect, chatting excitedly as they board the sleek mini-bus that will ferry them around town but the Food Urchin takes it in his stride. He dines out like this all the time. The common thread is that all of these chefs have been chosen by Mr Ramsay, he who no sell no gin no more, for their excellence and innovation. So first up is a visit to Gordo's very own Maze to meet his protégé Jason Atherton and check out his delectable delights for the first course. On arrival, the Food Urchin is slightly peeved to find yet another door man that doesn't recognise him so he steams right in and throws his rucksack at the front of house who are notoriously sniffy. The gang move through the heaving throng of suits and heels and find their table. Within seconds, glasses are charged and after a short interlude, the starter is placed in front of us which is Cornish Red Mullet with Cuttlefish Tagliatelle, Squid Paint and Asparagus. The Food Urchin thinks this looks gooood and moves to attack with knife and fork but then gets rudely interrupted. Whassiss you are pouring on the plate Mr Waiter? Rabbit RAGU! Fish and bunny wabbits! Are you mad?!! Still the Food Urchin is not one to lose his cool so calmly sits back whilst Mr Waiter finishes his business and tucks back in. The combination is an interesting one, ponders the Food Urchin, wonderful individual flavours but game and fish combined still leaves him perplexed. Unfortunately Jason is too busy for interrogation but no problems, the Food Urchin will call him on his mobile at a later date to ask him "what the hell did you think you were doing?". Glasses are drained and the posse are out of Maze like a shot off to the next destination.


Before the bunny wabbit arrived


For main course, the Foodie Fun Bus whizzes through the streets to the InterContinental where Theo Randall has set up camp offering London a taste of exquisite Italian cuisine. As the Food Urchin walks into the main hotel reception area, the flashes start to bounce off his shiny head and he thinks, ah this is more like it. Sometimes you have to just work with the paparazzi, in this case a girl from Intercontinental's own PR department but give them an inch and they'll take a mile so the Food Urchin restricts the impromptu shoot to just a few dozen shots and poses outside the entrance. Blinking and rubbing his eyes, the Food Urchin then manages to stumble into the wide open space of Theo's restaurant and is immediately soothed by it's calm and intimate atmosphere. The table is situated in view of the kitchen and Theo can be seen working with relaxed intent, utterly absorbed in what he's doing. So much so that he doesn't see the Food Urchin waving at him. The gang are seated again, wine is poured, delicious focaccia is brought, everybody chills. Theo pops out of the kitchen to give the gang an introduction to the main course which is Cornish Monkfish with Prosciutto, Artichokes, Capers, Parsley and Roseval Potatoes. He tells us that his fishermen south of the Tamar take extra care when fishing for monkfish. Commercially trawled monkfish will drown in the net and essentially cook in the salty brine of the sea. Our monkfish have been caught by handline and kept alive for just that bit longer before meeting their maker. The Food Urchin is impressed and when the plate comes, he dives in. The fish is fantastic, almost meaty in texture and supremely succulent. Working with the other flavours, the dish is an education in achieving tastebud nirvana with just simple, quality ingredients. The Food Urchin particularly enjoyed the artichokes although they do have the propensity to give him wind. Which he keeps quiet from the rest.



Theo Randall at the InterContinental


Cornish Monkfish with Prosciutto, Artichokes, Capers, Parsley and Roseval Potatoes

Plates and glasses are soon empty and again it is time to go. Theo comes out again for handshakes and back slaps and the Food Urchin spots a perfect photo opportunity, sidling up for a bromance shot, the pair throw their arms over each others' shoulders. But then everybody piles in unannounced. That's the problem when you go out with the beautiful people, they're all scared of missing out on something. The Food Urchin, too cool for school, as always takes in his stride and flashes his Blue Steel. Patrick, who took the picture, moves in on Theo wanting a shot for his own "private" collection but the chef wises up and signals for security. The gang all run out, slightly unsteady on their feet, crashing into each other and it's back on the bus.

The beautiful people

Patrick and Theo before security were called

Last stop of the night is Launceston Place on the sleepy byways of W8 for dessert, coffees and cognac. The main man Tristan Welch awaits and as the posse enter, it's kisses, high fives and elaborate street handshakes. Tristan is charm personified and the Food Urchin has to pause for a moment, thinking that he could have just met his nemesis in the coolness department. However, he soon shakes off this absurd suggestion and saunters into main dining room, tripping over the leg of a chair. The swaying party is seated and an equally charming sommelier called Mickey comes out and pours out some Jurançon, Domaine Cauhape, 2004. It is pure ambrosia nectar without being too cloying or sweet. Some members of the gang are now starting to get boisterous, arguing that others are getting more wine than others, swopping glasses. It's the usual shenanigan's when it comes to this time of night, the Food Urchin just laughs again and leans his head back not noticing the candle behind him. Luckily he doesn't have that much hair to singe. Small palate cleansers appear consisting of a Raspberry Jelly and Lemon Sorbet topped with a Black Pepper Tuile which refreshes the mouth and nasal passages. And then dessert comes out. No really that should be desserts plural. No actually that should be a smorgasbord of dessert. No balls to that, lets just say it's bacchanalian feast of sugar, cream, fruit and chocolate with an overdose of indulgence. The beautiful people are momentarily silenced but then it turns into a free-for-all with spoons clashing and scraping over the slate presentation plates. The details are fuzzy by now but the Food Urchin favoured the Tarte Tatin and Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding although the Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream and Rice Pudding Soufflé were also pretty damn good. In fact, the dessert is so money, it doesn't even know it.

Tristan and the ladies

Raspberry Jelly and Lemon Sorbet topped with a Black Pepper Tuile

The behemoth of desserts

It's nearly 11PM and time to leave yet things start to get delirious as Tristan comes back out for a chat and to see the beautiful people off. It soon becomes apparent that he and the Food Urchin have a lot more in common than just good looks. The chef it seems has twins and has heard that the Food Urchin has also sired the same. It's funny how people pick these things up through the grapevine, like gossip columns in the glossies the Food Urchin thinks but Tristan refutes this and states that he's read the bald man's blog. That's how he knows the Food Urchin has twins. At this point the thin veneer nearly comes crashing down, revealing the sham that the Food Urchin is just an ordinary joe who has bagged, food wise, one of the best nights of his life. Luckily, he's got big cojones and manages to keep up the pretence by casually saying "yeah, twins man, word of advice, always remember you've got two of them when you go shopping", shakes Tristan's hand and dashes out of the door.

Ordinarily, the Food Urchin would have his driver waiting outside to speed him home to leafy Essex but after an evening of such opulence, he decides to slum it and use public transport. It keeps him real, keeps him grounded. As he sits and stares out of the window, with his head pressed to the glass, woozy and breathing hard because he had to run, yes run to catch the vomit comet, the last train home, the Food Urchin has time to reflect on the evening's revelries. And he thinks to himself.


You are a jammy bugger FU.


Big thanks go to Sauce Communications and Phaidon and not to mention the beautiful people for making the evening such fun, you know who you are.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Blaggers' Banquet

And now for some exciting news, BONG!!!!!


"On November 15th, Londons’ Food & Drink Bloggers will be taking over Hawksmoor, the revered steakhouse in Liverpool St, for the Blaggers’ Banquet.

A first for Londoners – the Blaggers’ Banquet will be an exciting 5 course dinner with matched drinks, created entirely by food and drink bloggers, and using only food and drink that they have blagged. All proceeds will go to Action Against Hunger.

Bloggers will be the cooks and the sommeliers, front of house and the prep folk, the kitchen porters and the cleaner uppers. We’ll staff the bar, make the cocktails and make the coffee, and best of all diners can review us when we are done.

The menu will feature Chapel Down sparkling wine on arrival, Wagyu Beef and sustainable yellow kingfish among others. There will be music on arrival and canapés. Vegetarians and people with dietary restrictions will be catered for.

There will also be a blaggers’ auction, where we will be auctioning exciting items we’ve blagged. This auction will be two fold, a portion of it on the night, and the rest in the weeks following. Tickets are on sale now in pairs for £150 and one table of 5 for £375. Also 5 pairs of tickets will be auctioned starting from £75. Tickets are available on ebay: http://bit.ly/19WuSA
For any further information, please contact Niamh Shields (niamheen@gmail.com) or visit http://eatlikeagirl.com/blaggers-banquet/"


And I shall be one of the blaggers getting involved in this wonderful event. Having volunteered my services, I have been picked to work in the kitchen. Finally my skills as a potato peeler supreme have been recognised! The really funny thing is that no-one has considered my penchant for cooking wearing only skimpy undergarments, it does get hot you know. Boy, my follow blogging compardres are in for a shock next Sunday.

I will of course be reporting back after the event but if you wish to be there on the night or would like to donate then please please do go in for the auction for tickets and for the auction in the coming weeks (I will be posting details when they come available). I've seen the blag list, there are a lot of fantastic goodies to be won.