27 June, 2007

more Taste, and the theatre!














I simply have to kvell a little more about the Taste of London, which was such fun. Of course being crazy busy the last week or so, I did not do my blogger duty and post about it in time for you all to do it too, however... There's always next year, plus I came away with some incredibly delicious things to eat that you can order online, and I think you should.

Far and away in first place was a chicken liver pate with chilli and lemongrass, from The Patchwork Traditional Food Company, although this flavour was highly un-traditional, I'd have to say. Quite spicy and with a beautifully decorated top of little peppers and what I suppose to be lemon grass leaves, finely chopped? I have never seen a stalk of lemon grass with leaves, only the long bamboo-like sticks, and I'm completely flummoxed as to how they got the flavour into the pate. It was distinctly lemongrass, not lemon, and very fresh, with a smooth texture that made it perfect to spread on a nice picnic sandwich. But even nicer would be to unmould it onto a platter with little biscuits. There were other flavours as well (a Stilton stood out), so sample everything, I'd say. The pate comes frozen so it will stay good nearly as long as you want it to, and you can keep it for several days in your fridge after it thaws, as well. Simply divine, and if you don't do piquante, you could try one of the milder varieties, plus they're devoted to a vegetarian range as well.

Then I bought some rhubarb yogurt from Rachel's Organic (they supply all the milk for Pret a Manger, I know, and as much as I object to the whole big corporation food thingy, Pret is always delicious when you're in a hurry to get to writing class and simply have to have a cup of miso soup because it's raining and 60 degrees at the #@*&^ end of June). Tart, fresh, so tasty, plus I came away with creme fraiche, butter and a cherry yogurt that was completely delicious and very highly flavoured. So much cherry-ish foods taste like candy, but this tasted like the real fruit. Then, because I looked at my watch and noted that it was happy hour in France, I sampled some luscious Polish vodka with a really clean, flowery edge, called Uluvka. The bottles (I'm a sucker for packaging as you know) has a lovely curvy neck that makes it very nice looking in your freezer when you're searching for breadcrumbs. Do keep it frozen and serve it in a glass you've stored in your freezer. Plus you've got to love a vodka maker that invites you to sign its guest book on its website. Why on earth?

Then because my friend Jill is always going on about spelt (I always want to pronounce it "shpelt," I wonder why? the word is reminding me of something else), I meandered over to a table called "rude health organic foods," feeling the name should be rewarded by a visit. Also, I like to support a grain that has its own website. Can I just say that it was completely, but completely tasteless. I'm sorry, spelt! You do not rock. I can see that my problem is, as the very earnest lady behind the table assured me, I am accustomed to food loaded with (even if the very best) salt. Or sugar, if it comes to people with a sweet tooth. But I have to jump in and say that there are many foods that taste good (heck, that taste like at least something) with nothing added, like cucumbers, tomatoes, milk, melon, lots of things. Maybe I just don't eat a lot of grains with nothing added, so I should carry on about the poor spelt. And if I couldn't tolerate wheat, perhaps I would be very grateful for spelt. Right now I'm inclined to say that I can't tolerate food that has to have things added to it to taste good. But I can see that drenched in Rachel's Organic rhubarb yogurt it would be all right. I did feel good meeting Ruth, my first agronomist, and boy that's a serious profession. But then being put in a white apron and placed behind a table forced to extol the virtues of spelt could put a serious cast on almost anyone.

Let's see, I felt that I needed a little gluttony and free living after that, so I headed over to the booth manned by the Scott's restaurant people to have some oysters on the half-shell. I have always longed to go to Scott's, and it's practically in my backyard, but then when I see pictures in Hello! magazine of Jemma Goldsmith and Hugh Grant coming out, I realize I am better off sampling their wares standing up at a plastic table in the rain. And Mark Hix was there, winner of this year's "Great British Menu," so I shook his hand and said how much fun we had watching the programme, and he was very gracious. And the oysters were sublime, plus I had to applaud the attitude of the chap opening them and serving them. "I have only 6 crowns left to spend, and your oysters cost 8. How many oysters could you give me for six?" And he said grandly, "Darling, you help yourself!" So I got three different types of oysters amply sprinkled with Tabasco, lemon and shallots in vinegar, yum yum. You know me and oysters, and it only made me want to spend my life's savings at the restaurant even more.

In my yo-yo act between gluttony and ascetism, I stopped and had a sample of perfectly good sweet potato and mushroom casserole at a stand with the rather unfelicitous moniker "The Intolerable Food Company," where they make ready-to-eat foods for people who... can't tolerate food. Gluten-free, dairy-free, no additives or preservatives. Would you believe that Avery has a little friend who is severely allergic to sulphur dioxide? I cannot imagine the maternal devotion it would take for me to determine that what was giving my child a rash was... dried apricots. But there you have it. So if you, or someone you know, is in this unfortunate position of having ingredients disagree with you, now you have a resource.

By this time I was ready to be rolled home (actually it was a blessing I was so stuffed because we had the world's worst dinner out on the way to the theatre). I stopped to register for a free dinner at the new Galvin at Windows restaurant in Park Lane, with reputed 180-degree views over London. The menu does look unbelievably tempting, with ballotine of foie gras, chicken, celeriac and truffle mayonnaise just for one starter. Maybe my ship will come in.

I trudge to Becky's house a mere few blocks away, burdened with my purchases, and John picked me up to run out to the Old Vic to see "Gaslight," which was lovely. We had bought a ticket for Avery but she, child that she is, opted for a sleepover with a friend moving back shortly to New York (the callous creature). Rosamund Pike was simply gorgeous, and it's a nice take on a classic with the wonderful Kenneth Cranham was was so evil in "Layer Cake."

Then Saturday it was onto a completely thrilling afternoon at the Royal Court Theatre Open House for a panel discussion called "Do You Remember Your First Time?", bringing together actors, writers and directors to talk about their first experiences at "The Court," as they call it. I was spellbound, completely fascinated, at my first in-person glimpse of two actors I adore, Lennie James and Lindsay Duncan, live, talking about the job they love so much. And although they, and all people in the theatre apparently, are a bit derisive about television, I had to thank them for their fabulous work in great British drama series that I have enjoyed so much. It's a sort of six-degrees game I play with my drama friends: Lennie James was in "The State Within" with Eva Birthistle, who was in "Middletown" with Matthew Macfadyen, who was in "Perfect Strangers" with Lindsay Duncan. Oh, well, it amuses me, anyway. My friend 6point7 and I had a marvelous time, and even more so that evening at the current play at "The Court," "The Pain and the Itch" starring my dear crush Matthew. It's a great social satire about an American family (although the word has to apply pretty loosely) at Thanksgiving dinner, faffing on about liberal values and child-rearing, sibling hatred and phoney social values. Definitely worth seeing, and Matthew's American accent, while verging ever so slightly toward the midwest rather than Brooklyn Heights where the action is mean to be set, is still convincing. Go see it, do.

And now I must be off to meet my gorgeous friend Dalia before taking Avery skating this afternoon. John and I have reckoned that there is something special going on every day between now and when we go back to the States for the summer next week. Yikes. I know I will forget... something.

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