owlfish: (Labyrinth - Maze)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:31pm on 22/03/2013 under ,
A word in a NYT article threw me right out today. The women Senators of the US congress dine together once a month. At a recent dinner, they "nibbled on bread pudding".

Would men have "nibbled"? Or is the author emphasizing dainty feminine eating?

What does "bread pudding" connotate for US readers? Is it exotically British? Is it homely and comforting? Is it currently trendy? I have no idea.

Is "nibbled" even a good verb for a squishy dish? I was so uncertain that I turned to Webster's second international for help. (The answer is that yes, of course one can nibble on bread pudding. It's not a drink.)

A "nib" is, among its other meanings, a synonym for a handle on a snath. A snath can also be a snead. But, just to be confusing, a snead can also be a whipsocket. Happily, a whipsocket is exactly what it sounds like it should be: a socket for a whip.

All that was from a dictionary, but an online post clarified the relationship between snath and snead:
The scythe, without the blade is the Snath
The snath without the handles is a Snead
The handle on the sneed which make it a snath so it can become a scythe
is a Thole.

So a nib can be a thole, at least when it's on a snath?

Somehow, I doubt the grain which went that senatorial bread pudding was harvested by using the snath of a scythe. But the Senators tholed the pudding (since "thole" is also a verb meaning "to endure"), and hopefully enjoyed it too.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:35pm on 08/10/2012 under
We celebrated Thanksgiving this evening with two kinds of protein, three kinds of starch, and cranberry sauce. We had turkey, sweet mashed squash, roast potatoes, and roasted parsnips, with chopped cooked chestnuts, cranberry sauce, and gravy. It wasn't the most coherent or colorful of Thanksgiving meals, but it made me happy. (I know: parnips are interlopers. But they're good.) There's pie for dessert, but I think we'll be eating it another day.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:51pm on 14/09/2012 under
The annual Heritage Open Days were last week. Our ambitions were low: we considered various nearby venues open for them, and made it to one. But I'm glad we did, getting to know a local building, its history, and the way it fits in with other aspects of the town.

At some point, if they get a grant to fund it, they're going to remodel their kitchen so as to have a modern catering kitchen. Currently, they have this gas cooker:

Main stove with Mainstat


Which, fantastic as it is in its way, is currently a hazard and is off-limits for actual use, after an accident with an unwitting would-be user, poor labeling, and too many gas rings. Our tour guide said they didn't know when the stove was from, and I offered to look into it. I haven't gotten too far.

The ovens are controlled by a "Mainstat", a control advertised by the Main company which sold stoves and cookers with advertising primarily in the 1930s and 40s, so far as I can tell from online advertising copy and the tie-in cookbook, The Main Cookery Book, by Marguerite K. Gompertz.

Surely, this photo is of a label from the same company, in which case it's R&A Main Ltd, which amalgamated with Edmonton (London)-based Glover & Co by 1899, although the companies continues to produce stoves under their respective brands in Falkirk and Edmonton, so that's no help to dating. (But here's the Falkirk factory, seen from the air in 1939!)

The factory had a horse named "Bob" apparently. Also, an interesting locomotive history. An article on last year's Tottenham Riots tells me this about the factory:

Almost every gas cooker used in British homes after World War II was made by Glover and Main at the Gothic Works in Angel Road Edmonton, which closed in 1983. The land was derelict for over twenty years until an IKEA Store opened in Glover Close (named after the factory) in 2005.


So if you visit the Edmonton IKEA (as I have a number of times in past years), pause a moment and think of the Glover & Main factory, with its interesting locomotive connections.
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:31pm on 11/03/2012 under , , ,
We made our first trip to Westfield City Stratford yesterday, aka what will be the Olympics gift shop, in effect. Restaurant magazine has been covering interesting new concepts there since it opened, and it was a chance to try out a new movie complex.

The mall was very crowded but functional in the late afternoon on a Saturday, but information-gathering while waiting for a transit-delayed C meant I found how to navigate much of the mall from the much more tranquil exterior. The interior has a decent number of comfy seating clusters, especially at the end furthest away from the main entrances; although these are in places that look like they may yet be rented out to stalls and kiosks once the still-fairly-new-mall has filled in more of its space gaps. Waiting, I appreciated the cluster of coffee shops and quick food places right near the front.

Amusingly, there's a "2012 Viewing Platform". I think that would be a fantastic place - symbolically, not in practice - to spend next New Year's Eve, seeing in the wrong year. Really, it's a view out toward the Olympic Stadium for the 2012 Olympics.

Cabana is in one of the cluster of shops outside the main building of the mall (Chestnut Plaza). Two layered, busy, and people-intensive, it's a Brazilian barbecue place, food on skewers, plus sides and starters. It's casual sit-down dining, expeditious and decent. I had a lovely, refreshing coconut drink which was, as C put it, more than the sum of its parts. The starter packet of melting cheese was made interesting by smoked chili oil.

The parmesan-coated pork tenderloin was a taste highlight for me, as were the sweet potato fries - fluffy within, crunchy without. The grilled corn-on-the-cob was negligible, and the sticky short back ribs - C's highlight for their falling-apartness - were well-flavored, but my portion was too gristle-intensive to be much pleasure. Chili cumin lamb offered decent depth of flavor.

A major point in Cabana's favor is that everything we ate had sufficient flavor of its own that the provided house sauces added nothing we needed - spiciness which overwhelmed the flavor range already built-in. We had a very leisurely dinner in all of 45 minutes, in the quieter upstairs section which only has room for tables for two or four.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 01:25pm on 02/03/2012 under ,
We're thinking of getting another set of measuring spoons*, which is why I was looking at them online last night. There isn't that big a range of features they tend to come with. Melamine or metal. Flat- or round-bottomed. Round or oblong. Number of spoons and how small the set goes.

One feature they all advertise, however, is a way of keeping the set together. Handy loop or chain. Magnetism.

C. looked at the images I showed him with astonishment. We can't get those, he said. They're chained together. Use one, and they'll all get dirty!

We keep our spoons loose in a container in a drawer, unchained, although they arrived years ago with loop to secure them.

[Poll #1823399]

* Spice-intensive meals involve going through a lot of them very quickly, and spices require re-used spoons to be both washed *and* dried, which is fiddly when measuring lots of things quickly.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:12am on 04/02/2012 under , ,
Location: Castle House hotel, Hereford. Near the cathedral.

We came for a leisurely dinner and didn't get off to the best start. We were set enough on leisurely that we started at the bar, for pre-dinner drinks and loitering. The menus had barely arrived before someone first tried to take our orders. The nibbles were plated elegantly, but not intelligently, with the crisps prone to migrating out of reach underneath the dish containing olives and nuts. In the heart of cider land, the bar only stocked Westons.

Our drinks followed us to the table, since we were seated before we finished them. There, a selection of bread arrived - but no introductions to their variety were given - and immediately after, our starters. Mine was a homey, beautifully-balanced pear and celeriac soup, sided with a dull little herb scone. C's was all good looks and general disappointment; dry pork belly, bland layers of apple, adequate black pudding, plus slate is much easier to deal with as a dish for finger food than anything requiring cutting, or where edges would be convenient.

In retrospect, we should have tried beef variants for our mains, as I now know that's the restaurant's specialty; but neither menu or our uninformative waitstaff told us so, and we'd both had beef for lunch. The lamb dishes were okay; the meat itself was excellent, if not cooked into the tenderness I'd have liked. The carefully-layered potato was very much over-salted.

By this point in the meal, we were both seriously questioning the Good Food Guide rating as being overblown, a rare point of major disagreement for us with it. But then there was dessert.

One dessert between us, one more chance for the kitchen to redeem itself. And oh, did it ever. This dessert was sublime, exciting, a thrill for my tastebuds. The coconut pannacotta arrived as two thick semi-circles of dense, creamy pannacotta, rolled in toasted, shredded coconut. It came with mango sorbet, which was topped with what tasted like essence of mango, an intense, delicately-thin, transparent layer of chewy mangoness. In between were two tiny little marshmallows, passionfruit-flavored and topped with sesame seeds. That doesn't sound like much, but they were amazing, even better than the rest of the dish, hits of flavorsome intensity which we divided into smaller and smaller pieces to make it last.

So that was dinner. Our would-be leisurely dinner took about an hour-and-a-half of efficiency. A perfectly pleasant, be-linened dining room, a spectacular dessert after a lackluster dinner, haphazardly-functional plating, and staff going through all the right motions but without nuance or brain engaged. I blame the management and their training, not the young staff members personally.

Currently, I'd go back for dessert. I'd be willing to consider beef. But for anything else, I'd be interested in seeing what else there Herefordshire area had to offer instead.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:34am on 19/01/2012 under
As you probably know if you've been reading my posts here for very long at all, I have a food hobby. An occasionally rather high-end food hobby. I would rather spend quite a bit of money on a truly amazing meal than, proportionately, quite a few other things.

This sometimes leads to a disconnect between who I am and who high-end restaurants expect me to be, as one of their customers. I had two reminders of this in the last week.

Yesterday, I received an email from a high-end London restaurant, advertising its new "affordable art" project. Now I know a certain, modest amount of the buying of artwork, having grown up the daughter of a printmaker and museum curator. And nothing in that experience would lead me to believe that "affordable art" prices should begin well into the four-figures in pounds. They're not targeting me.

Last week, in Geneva where everything is expensive anyways, we went to a one-star Michelin restaurant in one of the city's many five-star hotels. The waiter, settling us in, asked if we were staying in the hotel. I said we were staying nearby. "Ah, perhaps in the Four Seasons then? That's a very short walk." No, a little further away than that.

Then, having established that he expected us to have been staying in one of the five-star hotels, he asked us where we were staying. And was discombobulated into conversationlessness when I answered with our highly-rated and much-less-pricy three-star hotel.* He might well never have heard of it. In retrospect, it was, frankly, somewhat rude, and not at all what he clearly intended as a comfortable welcome.

So - dear high-end restaurants: some of us really do come for the food and a pleasant meal out. It's not necessarily indicative of our lifestyle more generally. I know I am allowed to eat your food and enjoy my evening at your venue if possible, but it's a kindness if you too make me feel I belong there, having that meal.

* Hotel Kipling. Good ratio of price to value, if on the edge of an occasionally problematic neighborhood, conveniently close to the train station. Most of the more affordable Geneva hotels are located around there. Not only would I happily stay there again, I already have.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:20pm on 16/11/2011 under
C. called to say he was coming home, and did I have any thoughts on dinner? I did, for once. "Lemons!" I said. He laughed and came home.

He said, "I thought you said we were having lemons." He was hoping we might be having, say, meat and potatoes with our lemons. "What's this baking in the oven, then?" I gestured for him to look. How I treasured the expression of chagrin on his face when he looked in the oven to discovery, baking away.... slices of lemon.

Fortunately, that's not all we ate. [livejournal.com profile] marzapane sent me the link for a 101 Cookbooks recipe for red lentil soup with lemon juice. I also made the rather tart roasted lemon "chutney" with which she originally photographed the soup. It's very much a condiment - intense, but flavorful, and best eaten with other things. We ate it with rice and yogurt.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:37pm on 09/11/2011 under , , ,
It is a source of great satisfaction when a major news venue runs an article on a medieval topic the same week I have proposed a session related to it. This week's coincidence was particularly good: my proposed session is (in part) on Viking navigation - and The Economist ran a news article subheaded "Viking navigation", about the feasibility of Icelandic spar as a navigational tool usable for tracking the sun even under heavy cloud cover.

In an unrelated moment of context, I went to a history of jam event earlier this week. I had far better jam there - raspberry with lime, blueberry with black pepper - than I did at my afternoon tea venture. I also learned, satisfyingly, that Girl Scout/Guide badges were real, valuable, meaningful qualifications before the 1960s. Not just collect-them-all accruals as they have, in part, become. It was also one of two occasions this week that the role of the Women's Institute in jam-making in the UK came up in conversation.

If you ever require an approximate rhyme for "almanac", may I recommend to you the obsolete word "quidaniac"? It's a fruit syrup or jelly, often made from quinces, where "often" is "probably not since the seventeenth century, at least, by that name". Known use from the OED:
1655 T. T. de Mayerne Archimagirus Anglo-Gallicus (1658) cxlviii. 100 To make Quindiniackes of an Apricocke Colour.
owlfish: (Feast)
Location: Butler's, at the Chesterfield Hotel, Mayfair. London. UK.

Why do so many London places go through the motions of serving afternoon tea, their heart so clearly not in it? Butler's, at the Chesterfield Hotel, proved yet another of these places, who have so lowered my expectations of adequacy in a full afternoon tea that I was rating this one as vaguely averagely mediocre while K was totally slating the food.

Front-of-hotel service was excellent, with staff volunteering to check away our coats and bags voluntarily, organizedly giving us a cute little envelope with our coat claim numbers. The atmosphere where we ate was pleasant, a greenhouse roof over white linened tables, and a mini-courtyard just outside the window, complete with running fountain. The chair covers were a bit awkward, but forgivable on the whole.

The service was very well-intentioned, although clearly operating without sufficient management guidance. The good was that we were regularly offered refills, of water and anything else we might want. The oversights were intrinsic to afternoon tea: no milk was provided along with our teapots although one of us was on black tea, and the teapots were placed on our table the wrong way around, such that when K tried pouring herself a refill from the nearest pot, it turned out to be my tea instead.

Another sign of the lack of thought given to this period of food service was my tea. The peppermint had lots of fine leaf particles floating in it, the sort which would ideally be strained out by the provided strainer; only all the particles were finer than the holes of the strainer.

The food... well, it went through all the right motions. There were finger sandwiches, scones with good clotted cream and jam, and little pastries. The scones had a good crumb, although they were rather bland; the chocolate eclair was decent, and the orange cupcake was practically a highlight because it had a decisive candy orange flavor, full-bodied in a way nothing else was. The fruit in the tart was good, but I've had better pastry cups from any number of supermarkets. The sandwiches were a wash. The only one which tried was bland chicken salad overpowered by incongruous toasted almonds which prettily edged it. Salmon, ham, and cucumber (there was a fourth, blanking on it) were bland and uninteresting. Most supermarkets do better sandwiches. It is entirely possible to do tasty little proper afternoon tea finger sandwiches; I have eaten them elsewhere.

I had a lovely afternoon with K, and staff were good about letting us loiter, but food-wise and tea-consciousness-wise, it wasn't worth the effort to have gone there.

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