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Posts Tagged ‘food’

The other night The Original Soupwoman was browsing reviews of local restaurants for inspiration on which one try next, and she came across the entry for a local establishment. To her surprise, the reviews were positive overall, one reviewer even describing the food as “faultless”.

The Soupwoman’s initial reaction was put in her two cents worth, and share her and Inhouse Food Critic’s recent, much less impressive experience: how the sirloin steak was toughest Food Critic had ever had, Soupwoman’s burger unbelievably dry and the chips limp. Even the service did not save the day – why the sweet but somewhat clueless waitress thought it was  a good idea to to usher us to the very worst table in the whole, still practically empty restaurant (the one by the loos, so cramped that a couple would have to sit side by side, and enjoy watching the toilet traffic) is beyond comprehension.

Then she started to hesitate. To be fair, Food Critic had really enjoyed his starter,  and others had liked the food there, so perhaps it was only an accidental slip in the standards? And, more importantly, when the waitress had returned to ask if everything was alright, neither of them had not spoken up, and given the kitchen a chance to put things right.

And that is the question: why is it so difficult to give negative feedback in a restaurant? Is it just social code, that a proper well-mannered person just does not do it? Or are we afraid to offend the people who have access to the food we eat, out of sight?  Or is it because so often it does not make any difference, and you’ll only end up feeling like an ignorant fool or a nasty bitch?

Because Soupwoman has tried. For example once, in a well-known restaurant in Southampton’s Oxford Street, where she was served undercooked risotto. “But madam, it is supposed to be al dente,” was the condescending response. Yes. Soupwoman knows, but al dente does not mean the rice is still almost chalky. Another time was in a popular pub in Bursledon, where sauce in her dish was split and awful when it was served, and where she waited in vain for the waiter to return, as they are supposed to, to ask that very question. Eventually she had no choice but to eat it, as she was starving, but she did bring up the ruined sauce when the waiter eventually came to clear the table. He could not care less, disinterest ‘sorry about that’ was all she got.

Perhaps it is no wonder that we don’t bother, but simply go someplace else the next time. But perhaps we should. What do you think?

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Our base was the lovely Village Guest House, a great value, no-frills  type of accommodation – no front desk, no daily maid service, and no breakfast. But getting the perfect breakfast was no problem whatsoever.

Colleen, the owner/manager of the establishment had prepared a little map of the surrounding area, indicating her recommended restaurants and other amenities. Marked on the map was also Patisserie Claude (or rather “Patisserie Pablo”, as Claude himself has apparently retired and his apprentice has taken over), and as it was the closest option, we decided to have our first breakfast there.

What happened was that for that week, we became regulars. There was absolutely no point going further: scrumptious fresh pastries and decent cappuccino, for a reasonable price – what else would one need?

From the outside, this little bakery doesn’t look like much, and there’s only three tiny tables inside. Therefore, for the rest of the week, one of us simply got us coffee and pastries (plain, chocolate, or almond croissants, all very nice indeed) from Patisserie Claude, and we enjoyed them in the comfort of our little studio apartment.

Later, I googled Patisserie Claude, and it seems that most people enjoy their fare, but there are few bad experiences as well, mainly relating to the service. However, during our week we had nothing to complain about.

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One thing on the Original Soupwoman’s to-do list for this New York trip was to sample authentic New York cheesecake. The problem was, where?

Fortunately, this problem was solved during free Times Square Expose Walking Tour – our guide waxed lyrical about the cheesecake served at Junior’s, a Brooklyn establishment now having a location near Times Square as well (1515 Broadway, at 44th St): “The best cheesecake in town, take it from the fat guy.” And we took his word for it, and later, as we had an hour or so to spare before our allotted entrance to a nearby Tutankhamen exhibition, we thought a slice of cheesecake would make a nice snack.

First, we both wanted to have a slice of the plain original cheesecake, but our waitress advised that the second slice should be something else, and recommended carrot cake cheesecake. That suited the Inhouse Food Critic perfectly, as he loves carrot cake.

Daily calorie requirement and then some in one slice...

When our slices arrived, we were glad we had not ordered any food. They were huge. They were also good – rich, creamy smooth and not sickly sweet. I somehow managed to eat it all, but as Inhouse Food Critic’s slice was practically twice the size, with the added carrot cake, his efforts failed. I pondered for a moment asking for a doggy bag for it, but as we were going to the exhibition I thought it would have been impractical. But if and when I go to New York again, I will definitely get myself a slice of Junior’s cheesecake!

P.S. Apologies for the blurry photo, but it is the only one I got, and you have to see it to believe it!

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At the end of April, despite the chaos in the air caused by an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, the Original Soupwoman and the Inhouse Food Critic headed for New York, with an intention of spending there a week pretending to be New Yorkers. Our base was a studio apartment in the Village, a stone’s throw from Washington Square and Bleecker Street.

But Soupwoman’s first story is not about any of the lovely culinary establishments in the neighbourhood – it is about the Ultimate Sandwich.

It is a Finnish tradition to have a picnic brunch on May Day. Being in New York, Central Park was the obvious choice for the location. As for the food, we decided to keep it simple and just grab a sandwich on the way there.

Soon we found ourselves queueing at the counter in the Carnegie Deli. We had heard it was famous for its hot pastrami sandwich, so we decided to have one each, despite the whopping price of nearly 15 dollars. When we got our bag, it was surprisingly heavy, but we had no idea what awaited us.

Then, after we found the perfect picnic spot, it was revealed to us. There are no words – and it was as good as it looks:

Pastrami Sandwich by Carnegie Deli – can you finish it?

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The Bamix crisis is over, so this week’s soup is a smooth puree again. And it is spicy!

Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can of plum tomatoes
3 cans of water (use the empty tomato can)
4 tsp Kallo vegetable stock granules
2 tsp Harissa paste (the real stuff, not the kind that is diluted with carrot puree or somesuch)
salt to taste
(chopped coriander to garnish)

Heat the oil in the pot, add onion, garlic and cumin and fry until the onions have softened. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, water, vegetable stock granules, thyme and harissa paste. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then puree with a had mixer until smooth,  check the seasoning, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with fresh bread.

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I was looking through my pictures from Vietnam, and started thinking about the fragrant broths I enjoyed there. This recipe draws inspiration from those, but it is by no means authentic. But it turned out quite tasty!

Ingredients
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 cm piece of ginger,  sliced
100g carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
200g onion, thinly sliced
1 tbls vegetable oil
1000ml chicken stock
100 ml water
1 tbl fish sauce
300g cubed fish (Abel and Cole’s fish pie mix)
garnish: chopped spring onion, coriander, basil, garlic, chilli

Put carrots and salt in a small bowl, rub the salt on the carrots and set the bowl aside.

Put peppercorn, cloves, star anise and ginger in a pot and roast them on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetable oil, stir for a few seconds and then add the onions. Lower the heat to medium and fry until light golden, stirring constantly to ensure the onions do not burn. Add the stock, water and the fish sauce, bring to a boil and let the broth simmer for 15 mins. Add the fish, cover with lid and turn the heat as low as it goes.

While the fish cooks, rinse the carrots thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Divide the garnishes into small individual bowls or plates.

When the fish is cooked (should not take longer than few minutes), serve the broth immediately  with the carrots and the garnish selection – everybody can add as much or as little as they like.

Serves 2 as a light main, 4 as a starter.

Note: Be careful with the fish sauce, it is very strong. Add just a little at first and taste.

Tip: You can make this more filling by putting some cooked and rinsed rice noodles in the soup bowls and ladling the broth over them.

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My apologies – the Soupwoman has been distracted by holidays and other forms of busyness, not to mention serious bouts of being just plain lazy. I hope this recipe makes up for it!

Ingredients
1 tbls rice bran oil or other vegetable oil
150g chopped onion
2 cloves on garlic, minced
1 medium fennel, chopped (200g)
1 chopped red chili
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 l water
1 can chopped plum tomatoes
400g of firm white fish, such as pollack, cut into bite-size pieces
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 tbls fish sauce (nam pla)
salt to taste

Heat vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, fennel and chili, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add turmeric and coriander, and stir. Add water, tomatoes, and lemongrass, bring soup to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are done.

Add the fish into the pot and cook for a few minutes, so that the fish just done. Remove lemongrass stalks, if you can find them, and serve.

EDIT NOTE: After some consideration, I decided chopped onion works here better  – it’s much more pleasant to eat in a soup than stringy bits of leek! The recipe is updated accordingly.

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