Pumpkin Publog

May 05

Tomato sauce 2005

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Somewhere in the archives last year I talked about the trials and errors I was doing in making my own tomato sauce — another year and I’ve returned to it with a vengeance, and happily so. I’ve got the basic sauce preparation down to a science and can’t wait to try further experiments (and I’m hoping the visit to Italy in July will give me yet more ideas).

Yesterday for the first time I found myself with some pasta and prepared sauce by me in the freezer, so I went ahead and cooked it all up. The sheer richness of the sauce — not in terms of, say, creaminess or anything, but in terms of the overload of delicious tomato I had overseen creating was simply a pure, wonderful treat. Eaten out on my balcony in a warm afternoon with the dying sunlight and some wine to drink — pure bliss. What a great summer this should be!

kitchen nightmare ex-poh-zay??

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in which g.ramsay by the magickal technique of shoutin a lot w.a purple face turned a beardy no-mark no-cookin cowboy into a chef in six weeks

ok so far so didn’t-we-already-do-this? except this time the cut to the chase made no sense: the restaurant was TERRIBLE and FILTHY and DEEPLY IN DEBT, and GR yelled “fuck” a lot and everyone suddenly got good at what they were bad at, esp.the owner and chief cook, who went from givin the punters burnt stuff out of cans to perfect fresh italian cuisine with no in-between stages (and all debts paid off) (and he didn’t even have to sell his swanky car)

ok there was a funny bit when he got three of the staff to swfitcook a pizza and test it on a passsersby, anbd the best pizza wz cooked by the sullen little polish girl who never cooked one before, and it wz fed to a passing anarcho-crustie vegetarian with a comedy-punk haircut and he said “it’s nice” and GR said “erm sorry she’s polish and a polish vegetatarian pizza has HAM in it” and the veggie said “that was MEAN” and ran away

but this little episode had nuthin to do with the main story “arc”

May 05

O emporia! O mores!

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Posh food and steeling the nerves to buy it

Visiting Brindisa, the very lovely purveyor of quality Spanish goods in Clerkenwell, on the way to the first night of the Beijing Opera at Sadlers Wells, was always going to feel like something a woman with much more expensive shoes would do. Still, I manfully knuckled down to it, and managed to buy some nice chorizo, manchego cheese and bittersweet paprika without breaking down in gastro-social anxiety; not without effort, as a silver fox businessman (in his suit and tie) breezed through shedding ’50 notes while discussing the evening’s dinner with his (presumable) trophy blonde on a high-end mobile.

I had naturally trained for this boutique experience, having wandered around Fortnum & Mason‘s food hall the other week after taking in the recent Jenny Holzer exhibition off Berkeley Square (I find that combining culture with epicuriosity is beneficial, if conducive to terminal smugness). The piles of beautifully packaged tea, the extensive range of mustards, the vats of buffalo mozzarella: all this overloads the senses like a very expensive hangover. There is something very pornographic about it the whole experience, but maybe that’s just my middle-class anxiety showing. I will admit to getting freaked out by the 57 flavours of balsamic vinegar available at even the humblest of supermarkets, so the range of shiny boxes, packets and bags of exotic and potentially delicious goodies to be found within these exclusive temples to the guts are bewildering.

It’s really the quality of the bags and packing that set quality epiceries aside from the common herd (in experiential terms rather than product quality – to a certain extent, you do get what you pay for foodwise): Fortnum & Mason’s precious duck-egg blue in heavy-guage matt plastic (lovingly filled by one assistant wrapping while the other rings up the cost behind a nice oak counter), Selfridges‘ the familiar strident yellow, Brindisa’s fetchingly translucent so a hint of the products purchased coyly reveals itself. Until fairly recently, Krispy Kreme doughnuts were only available in the UK from a concession in Harrods, and a flat logo-strewn box awkwardly poking though a flimsy transparent bag and bruising commuters’ knees on the tube was a sign of the rich ironist popping home to host a terribly chi-chi dinner party. Now that every Tom, Dick and Tesco has a proprietary cabinet prominently displayed, one has to wonder if the same cachet applies.

May 05

Ten ways to avoid annoying your waiter

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It has been a trying weekend at the restaurant, and as I contemplate one more shift before some blessed days off it occurs to me that if diners abided by a few simple rules the entire experience would be a lot more enjoyable. For us, anyway.

1) If you should hear the crash of plates or glasses as one of our harrassed and overworked staff momentarily loses their grip (or possibly is caused to by a thoughtless customer), do NOT call attention to with cries of “wahey” or “sack the juggler!”. This does not make you a hearty bon viveur, an amiable observer of life’s vicissitudes. It makes you a cunt.

2) If a waiter comes bearing a tray of drinks, do NOT start taking them off the tray where they have been so carefully balanced, as it tends to lead to 1.

3) Similarly, do NOT try tidying up the plates and stacking them for us. We’re better at it than you.

4) When ordering garlic bread, DO order it in the style of Peter Kaye. Garlic? Bread? We just love that, and at no point have we ever heard that before. Bonus points if you follow up with cheese? cake? you brain-dead parrot.

5) Do NOT wander off from your table to the bar to order drinks. See that guy there in the waistcoat? The one with the order pad and the pen? That’s a waiter. Don’t see him? You’re in a Wacky Warehouse.

6) DO ask us half an hour after last orders for a taxi. We see it as our bounden responsibility to get you home safe and sound, and very much enjoy negotiating with surly minicab firms at one in the morning.

7) Do NOT, however, ask us for more drinks whilst you’re waiting. Remember half an hour ago, when I told you the bar was shutting? What did you think I meant by that?
And whose fault, precisely, is it that you don’t have a taxi booked? Whose?

8) When in a large party DO pay for all your drinks individually as you go. In no way is that a massive fucking nuisance. Better yet, when the bill comes, why not spend half an hour arguing over who had what, scrooge? After all, that Garlic? Bread? costs at least a whole pound.

9) Waitresses love attention from drunken men. Make sure to tell her how pretty she is at every possible opportunity (in fact, without wishing to give the game away, most of my waitrsses fancy every single man who walks through the door).

10) Finally, there is no reason whatsoever to turn up when you say you will. We only do table plans for a laugh, anyway. The kitchen won’t be at all bothered if fifty meals come on at the same time because all the seven thirty bookings turn up at eight. The ovens, like the TARDIS have an infinite amount of space inside.

May 05

The Oakdale Arms, Hermitage Road

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It is rather lovely to have an real ale bouzer almost on one’s doorstep, especially one as nice as the Oakdale. It’s a good size pub, with two big rooms, so I’ve never really felt crowded in there, although at the beer festival a couple of months ago it was pretty busy. It has a really comfortable feel to it, as well as pool tables, darts competitions and a pretty good juker (of which more later). A small group of us tootled down on Saturday night and worked pretty comprehensively through the beers on tap. I understand the Oakdale is the only pub in London that sells Milton beers, including the darkdark stout of NERO, which makes guinness taste like soda water, it’s so deep and bitterchocolatey and [drools]… There were several other beers of darkness about including a very quaffable Mild (did you know it’s “wild about mild” month?) and the rather disturbing Vindolanda (another Milton one I think) which, as Liz correctly pointed out, tasted an awful lot like soy sauce, but not in a bad way…

So overall a top north London bouzer, however, towards the end of the evening I put my quid into the juker and selected my five tracks from the somewhat rock-based, but reasonably wide-ranging selection. As the helium-voiced strains started up “when I was young, seemed that life was so wonderful…” the track was abruptly cut off before Sheffield Dave could even get started, “NO SCOOTER IN THIS PUB!” shouted the landlord much to our dismay. “His pub, his rules” maybe, but why have it on the juker then?

May 05

Two Mug Fannydangle

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In my many years of drinking and brewing tea I have occasionally been accused of fussiness. I admit that there is probably some truth in this accusation. I am rather fond of the warming of pots. I do dislike the misordering of mug filling. Hell, I’ve even been known to complain about the quality of water. But in the pernickity tea making stakes I’ve got nothing on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Rat Kebab and Maggot Pie

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New mammal found on food stall. – tragicomic tale of scientific discovery. The final paragraph raises an eyebrow though – the bumblebee bat??

Further quirky action – insect restaurant in Germany – website here, not prioritising the maggots.

May 05

Tasty Taz Toilets

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I had a bite to eat in the newly opened Taz by the British Museum. I like the one on The Cut, though I have always found that Turkish tends to lend itself to large groups rather than just a couple. A huge soup bowl of hummus can be a little bit dispiriting if you have to destroy it all by yourself. Anyway, the food was fine, I regretted not having the nicely seared lamb, but the couscous was top hole even if my casserole was a bit dry.

Nevertheless this all pales when held against the magnificent toilets. Cool blue mosaic tiles in nice airy rooms. Not overscented, but very, very clean. Nice soap, water at perfect hand temperature. And paper towels only. Perhaps they lacked the novelty of the chocolate orange lavs in The Marlborough Arms, but these were lavs to die for. Almost worth getting stomach cramps for. The only note of caution were the male staff trying to clean and replenish the ladies at 9pm, causing embarrassment to themselves and the becubicled ladies.

May 05

I Like Badgers

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I can’t remember that there is anything outstanding about Badger Beer at all. Yet if it is on offer, I nearly always order it. I have tried to work out the reason for this, but it boils down to one simple fact. It is named after Badgers.

I am loathe to drink beers with comedy names, on the other hand. Bishop’s Knob and the like do not tempt me. This is not a kind of humour I particularly like, and therefore I drift this over to the beers too. Ditto with garish and badly drawn pump brasses. I am not saying that been is necessarily a serious matter, but lets not take it down to Benny Hill level.

None of these considerations have anything to do with taste, or at least the kind of taste you get in your mouth. But truth be told, beer is a product like any other and requires decent marketing. Not in a CAMRA “Drape a model in hops and call her the goddess of beer” way. Just as a simple, pleasant drink. Like Badgers are simple, pleasant animals.

May 05


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Spotted in the Head Of Steam last night (pub one of three for me) – a new style of hi-rise charity box. In a wooden frame there were five perspex boxes all labelled with their respective charities. The HoS said they would double any money given, very generous I thought. But also – what fun is this: you can see into the box, offering real time judgement on what charities are the favourite.

The boxes were laid out as follows:


Medecin Sand Frontier was winning by quite a long shot. Greenpeace was surprisingly last in this race. What does this say about Head Of Steam clientelle? Absolutely nothing!