Sunday, 27 June 2010

A quarter of that please

30 degree heat, prosecco and fresh raspberries, elegant beautiful company and Manchester. I've had worst saturday's. And worst meals.

Thomas Restaurant & Bar opened back in March in Manchester's uber cool Northen Qtr.

Sitting with my equally truly uber cool friend Claire, we sat at first gawping at two young ladies having a fashion shoot in prom dresses against the back drop of a brick wall and lamppost. Trotting in 5 inch heels in bacofoil dresses and flicking their hundred pounds worth of hair extensions was just one sight.

Anything can happen in the Northern Quarter and it did.

Just as we ordered our food, I told Miss Claire I could see some inflatable people walking towards us offering free hugs.

Sweaty hugs more like.

Once the slightly strange manc had moved off the chair he had stolen next to us, we were able to fully manipulate our table to our advantage and get out in the sun.

Then menu is classic bistro. An array of pasta, salads, burgers and steaks and dippy doo dah's as we would call it, if you were not 100% in need of a good feed.

We are always in the need for a good meal. I went for a delicious Roasted Vegetable Pizza and Claire went for a Smoked Haddock Risotto complete with a poached egg on top.

The pizza did not disappoint. The humble pizza has to be one of my favourite meals, no contest. Traditionally considered a peasant food in Italy, there was nothing paltry about this Pizza.

A diving soft and just thin enough base. Not a perfect circle which is how I like it. A gluggy and sharp tomato and rosemary sauce and just the perfect amount of Mozzarella and the faintest hint of Pecorino Cheese. It was laced with artichokes, olives and juicy charred red peppers.

I say it to all the Waiter's and waitresses sometimes, but it really was hands down the nicest Pizza I have ever had. If that was on speed dial for my next hangover, I would be drinking every day.

The Risotto had all the elements of a perfect dish. Glutinous and sticky rice just oozing with hunks f flaked smoked haddock. The egg was textbook. Perfectly poached and scattered in cracked black pepper just waiting to be poked with a fork.

Perfect service, dreamy food, fizzy and crisp Prosecco, 25% off our bill (voucher cloud is the boy) and a nifty little tan.

Thankyou Manchestaaaaaa for my lovely food.

Not so lucky for your man driving down a one way street head on meeting Mr Policeman. Schoolboy.

Visit now. Thomas Restaurant & Bar 49-51 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

He ain't heavy, he's my Hummus

If Pink Cava Fizz is to be the new Pinot of the past two years, it's food equivalent has to be Hummus.
Hummus. Hummous, Houmous. However you choose to spell it, nothing can unequivocally deny the sheer awesome organeleptic force of this gunk. Pure genius.

The love that I feel for this sticky substance goes beyond a Friday night in with the girls or a haphazard party snack. Nope. To me, Hummus is a religion.

I first flirted with Hummus on holiday with my first Boyfriend. Kavos. 1999. So much to dislike about the place. The scratchy wool blankets. The melting make up. The Ouzo induced 2 day hangovers. Yet, a Greek Phoenix had risen through the flames.
Maybe I tried it to numb the pain of the concrete slab that was Kavos or that it was just that my palate had the sophistication akin to licking 12 plug sockets. Back then you see, to me, eating was more of a hobby. Ask anyone who knows me well enough and you will find that I don't really "do hobbies". However, whilst my friends and siblings were discovering being good at long jump, acting or horse riding, I was busy eating. Almost anything in sight. And do you know what? I was very good at it too.

Back in Kavos, the sun was setting over our parasol covered evening meal and tonight we would dine as grown ups. Instead of ordering my usual Pizza, I decided I wanted to eat what all the other big people were feasting on. I saw people liberally dunking great mounds of cloudy white bread into a small clay pot. The activity appeared to last a lot longer than your average Pizza, so it was a no brainer.

A static mass of rich tea coloured mayonnaise which looked like it has developed some serious goosebumps, it has been given a slick of the finest Olive Oil and scattered with a very suspect grown ups dust. I can now believe to be Paprika. There was a collar of vegetables guarding the clay pot too, almost like the ladies legs like you see on synchronised swimming. Adding colour and vitamins all added to the grown up Greek picnic.

Emerging my pillow bread into the Hummus and taking my first bite, it was a culture shock for my tongue. I would imagine if Hydrochloric acid were made into a peanut flavour, this would be a good benchmark. Ever so tart and incredibly nutty. It could have been the two carafes of white wine, the romance of the pretend parents supper and the blaring Euro Pop which aided the experience, but I liked this Hummus.

Like any good Brit back on TerraFirma you make a point to emulate that slice of holiday bliss. It is what I like to call PHB (that's Post-Holiday Behaviour) to you. It can come in all forms of behaviour. You may find yourself wearing your bikini to the supermarket as opposed to a bra in the vein hope that it will become warm enough to face the shops in just your swimwear like you did in the shops abroad.
You go out into pubs and try to make the bar-staff create an array of cocktails that you had sampled and ask for a "fishbowl" cos that's how you had it in the Irish Bar in Magaluf.
Trying the food that you ate on that holiday is a staple PHB of many a British brother and sister.

Hummus has long now been a favourite in my cucina. In fact, we are now celebrating over a decade in partnership together.

I have enjoyed the various homemade creations, often induced through the grape.

Hummus has a plethora of purposes. It is fundamentally a dip, however I find this a bit of a shortcoming.

It can be spread on thick slabs of ciabatta, warm or cold, delicious when smothered on hot buttered sourdough bread and out of this world when used as a cement between two pringles. Salt and Vinegar being my poison.

I have been known to utilise my Hummus for obscure eating indulgences; to name a few; dipped in cold pizza, apples, fish fingers, ham, strawberries, grapes. I think a scotch egg may have bathed in there at some point. I would go as far as saying if I could, I would brush my teeth with Hummus if I could.

The humble Hummus is essentially a Melee of Chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, salt, garlic and olive oil.
Standing solo, chickpeas are to the gastro world what Jay Brown was to the popworld when leaving Five. Morose, futile and looking scared.
Mashed to an inch of their lives and soaked in a lido of oil, salt, tahini and sweet lemons and you have yourself a Meditteranean party in your alimentary canal.

As with any food now, it has been doctored and played with to an inch of it's life and now takes many guises. Perhaps to meet the niche of drunken ladies on a Friday, you now have lemon & coriander, red pepper, olive and aubergine, pesto and chilli. I feel a McFlurry vibe behind these Chickpeas.

I like to have mine with Jalapeno's, lime and red hot chillies and lashings of cracked black pepper.

Having a degree in Food and Nutrition, my girlfriends often use me as a faux-diet consultant. "Is it healthy" as they pile mounds of the stuff in with kettle crisps. I have to break it to my ladies that, no, it really is not.
The sad athletic truth is that 3 tablespoons later and you would require 45 minutes on a cross trainer and 15 minutes on the treadmill. And that's running girls. Not walking with magazines in front of you.

For me, the formula is simple.

Eat more. Move less.

Will Cheryl Cole ever appreciate that heavy hit of Hummus topped on a pringle sandwich. I think not. Her loss.

A whistlestop tour of El Capital at the weekend led me on a gargantuous gastro pavement pounding session. Soho, pulling out all the stops for the food fashionistas with it's oh so pretty pattisseries boasting slick gateau's and candy coloured macaroons to take home.

After the endless vacuous Sushi bars that fondled every street corner, we stumbled across our Mecca.
It was the Hummus coloured sign that caught my eye originally and the shocking Paprika lettering.

Hummus Bros.

Could it be? Approaching closer to learn more of their religion. It became evident that this here was a restaurant built solely on the basis that you would be ordering and eating Hummus.
Gazing through the window with Chickpea envy, I could see the swarms of diners (mostly ladies) delving heartily into tagines of the good stuff.

Whoever created this menu can only be described as a Chickpea Alchemist.

A very Ikea savvy method of Hummus shopping. You select your Hummus House foundation and then extend with your materials of choice.

Chuck in some Chorizo? It's an option. Want shredded lamb? It can happen if you want it.

It was only when I stopped to see the Hummus Hardcore crew in the window dishing me up some serious deadeye that I decided to retreat back to my empty belly and step away from the cocktail menu.

Our next stop. Tesco Metro. Family sized Hummus. Sliced Chorizo...............Yiamas!!!

Dive in now.

Hummus Bros, 88 Wardour Street, Soho, London. W1F 0TJ

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Whoopie Do!!!!!!

Speaking to my good friend Miss Amy on our recent telethon she was filling in her old Northern pal on all things darn sarf.

As ever, the conversation turns to all things foodie, well mostly cakey and she tells me of a new kid making waves on the cake circuit. The Whoopie Pie.

I feel our American friend may be suffering something of an identity crisis. Is it a cake? Is it a cookie? Does it have the minerals to be classed as a pie?

From first glance it would appear that this is a hamburger filled with cream.

Two fat pieces of chocolate cake sealed with a fluffy fondant kiss. I quite like the thought of sugary meat, so I will go with the hamburger approach.

Surely, I had to be interested........? Tell me more Miss Amy.

So, it would appear that our ubiquitous cupcake may be sidelined a la Crouchy on Capello's line up.

Food historians have located our sweet hamburgers back to Pennsylvania, New England. Apparantely, Pennsylvanian Amish women would bake Whoopie Pies, or make Whoopie (titter) and pack these in't husbands lunch box.
After a long shift in the fields, th'husband would open his Amish tupperware and the sight of this little chocolate sandwich would make them shout "Whoopie!".

I would like to think that I would one day have the opportunity to use this underated word with such conviction. It needs a revival.

Now, the nearest excitement that I have experienced thus far over lunch is rubbing the foil of a breakaway biscuit to reveal the holy grail of the McVities Wheatsheaf. It certainly did not provoke a Whoopie.

So what do we know about Amish people? Amish people like simple living. Amish people like plain clothes. Amish people have beards. Amish people ride around on horse and cart. Amish people don't have an iPhone. Amish peoples lives suck.


They have been hiding a baking secret from us for years. Amish people rock. They have been keeping their poker faces firmly under their bonnets.

Harrods and other London trendy bakeries have been getting on board with the Whoopie Wagon. Now I salute anyone who incorporates Butterscotch into their cooking. An underused flavouring. Harrods Whoopie menu is a cake cocktail menu dream.
The Butterscotch Whoopie is two pillows of decadent cake merged with a toffee and butterscotch mass of fluff.

You can pay homage to our Amish friends and make the Whoopies sans decor. However, I am going to swank them up a little and bring a piece of Neauveau England to the pie and paint them with pretty pastels and glitter.

Tupperware beware, you about to be Whoopeeed!!!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The love affair turns sour

After the disappointment of SATC 2 (yep, I said it) the new film sucked.

Yes, for all intents and purposes I will no doubt go and see it again and probably buy it, just to finalise the collection.

Having spent a SATC style evening with girlfriends recently. Original. Not really. Go out on most saturday nights around the UK and you will see gaggles of girls recreating their very own Manhatten in your standard Wetherspoons.

Watch bemusingly as a 19 year old student rummages for Cointreau or even a piece of orange to burn the zest. I refuse to drink something that should be served in a daintly conical glass in a 1/2 lager glass with the warmth of the dishwasher it just came out of.

Savvy chains are now stocking their bars with Cosmo mix. A sort of Crusha-style juice that you just add juice too. Milk in fact may have been the better option. A glass of red glucose syrup is enough to make anyone gag onto their Primark dress.

It is through this tragedy and too many bad Cosmopolitans that I have had to avert my attentions to new drinks du jour.

For health reasons and as part of our 5 a day, we are now drinking Pomegranate Sours.

6 parts pomegranate juice
2 part vodka
1 part Cointreau® orange

Combine everything in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass.

That reads Martini Glass.

I'm loving Angles instead

Robert Browning was a good old stick.

Oh to be in England now that Summer's here.

I want to live in the summer's of Browning's day. I bet him and Keats had some right laughs on the Magners and Ice.

Summer. A truly melancholy season for us brits.

Never mind broken Britain. Broken Summers more like.

Full of false promise. Chinese whispers which make their way down through queues in the supermarket, onto the buses and into our Facebook news feeds. In true British optimism, people abusing the phrase "it's meant to be hot".... you see, no one actually quite believes that it is going to happen. Until it really does.

Try yourself at googling "the sun" and the first hit you receive is our Red Top friend first. Hell,even the sun cannot even be bothered to make itself popular in Google. It has truly given up the fight.

Now, I have been brought up to not get too excited about this season. My father has a very three line whip approach to the summer. "It is only another 30 days and the nights soon start to get darker". Fan-bloody-tastic. I am really excited and pumped now.

Sunworshippers stand by your beds, and my dad for that matter. Unbeknown to myself and by default, I have become something of a statistician recently.

Having thought like many, that I would never require my GCSE Mathematics knowledge every again, I have decided to study a little bit more on angles after covering a splendid Maths lesson recently. It was funny how many facts that I remembered about our little obtuse pals and his acute ways.

For all you sun gods and goddesses out there, the Solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year, when the tilt of the earth's axis is most inclined toward or away from the sun, causing the Sun's apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme. Ergo, the day when we are allegedly supposed to get the most access to our favourite star and when the sun is at it's maximum elevation.

The summer solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is closest to the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. To be precise it is actually 23.5 degrees. I know that this angle is quite small. It certainly is not going to fit into a corner, nor spread across a straight line. The real reason our weather therefore is so screwed is angles. We are actually on the wonkiest planet going. We are not at a right angle which means that this alters how much light we receive.

I knew I hated Maths.

You don't see Sian Lloyd giving us the facts with angles. Perhaps she should. Then we would have a true logical reason as to why one minute we are in our gladiator sandals and new maxi dresses and then back into our leggings and jumpers.

So make a mark in your diaries folks. The 21st June is that day to get your protractors out and set it to 23.5.

Another much more puritanical formula for the summer months is that of sun comes out (panic buy to supermarket x clothing + shoe shops) to the power of 10.

I love to be in the midst of the Supermarket when the Sun has just kicked in.

The meat aisle tends to bear the brunt of the early Solstice. Lonely Dalepak Minted Lamb shapes fighting for survival by the freedom farmed chicken thighs. VALUE BREASTS!!, that's what the kids want. Skin is not in. For die hard meat enthusiasts, the bright sparks in Tesco and Asda have invented what can only be described as a meat selection box. You have your big players in there, your BBQ chicken fillets, angus beef burgers, obligatory fat sausages and then your low key characters of pork lollipops and anaemic chicken wings.

The bread aisle tends to take a gastro bashing. Soft bread rolls from other people's trollies are laughing at your pathetic attempts to use wholemeal. Desperate measures sometimes means pitta bread. It really is every man for themselves.

The gender bias in a supermarket comes into play here too. The salad aisle is a stomping ground for every woman on a sunny day. Promises of "salad days" at work. Lots of it. I just love salad. That is all I am going to eat all week.
That along with the two bottles of Rose and the box of mini magnums you have just ploughed in.

Looking at salad bag hell, I can spy a lazy bag of Caesar and a bag of rocket that is taking its last breath.

I refuse to eat iceberg lettuce. The poor mans leaf. I would rather eat my mound of angus with green striped aquafresh than ply it with a mass of watery mulch. Watercress everytime.
Trollies overflowing with dips, green dips that people did not even knew existed before, horse bags of walkers sensations, olives for people trying to recreate that Grecian holiday they have just had, hummus making a sly trip into peoples trollies, new CD's we need to create that party mood, strappy sun vest tops at 2 for £9. Yep, the summer sun really does create us into monsters with pseudo bank balances.

It would not be Britain if the alcohol sales did not become an issue in the summer.

The World Cup adds a quadratic problem into our economic equation.

Tesco have recently announced that they are going to support our newly formed coalition government and help towards tackling "booze britain" by not making cuts to theprices of Alcohol, especially during the World Cup. Ah, how sweet of them.

A spokesperson for the company found excessive drinking and the anti-social behaviour that it causes, one of the public's most serious concerns. Really??? I am shocked.

Let us then turn our attentions to our our more er-hem "spirited friends of the Big 4" who are of a much more sporting nature.

The sun boozers paradise of Asda is even mass producing mini fridges for your beer to go into should you run out of space on a blazing hot day. Now that is what I call every little helps.

Before you know it, you have packed your last item into your bag and the cashier tells you it is £165. You have bought items for two days and most of it to theme in with your summer solstice approach to shopping.

Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg take note. If you want to build the economy back together. I suggest you take yourselves to Stonehenge on the 21st June and do a little Sundance. It really is a miracle what can happen in the sunshine.