Monday, 7 January 2013

2012 in Review - Top 10 food moments: 1-5

It’s been a long while since I last blogged but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been immersed (figuratively) in food and all things tasty. The New Year has reinvigorated me and given me breathing space to stop and reflect on the last 12 months. To know me is to know I love lists, so here are my top 10 favourite food related moments of last year:

1. Nigella tweeting me

In response to my (admittedly rather sycophantic) blog post detailing my love for her, I got a lovely response, and whatever my Dad might say it IS from her and not a spotty work experience kid. Mind when I met her at a book signing several months later she didn’t show even a flicker of recognition. Her retweeting my post led to 2000 blog visitors and me spitting my tea out on the table.

I do now have a lovely signed copy of Nigelissima, from which I can highly recommend the Greek Lamb Pasta, the rest awaits making. I also got a signed copy for my boss and his cat, which she looked a little confused by. This year, to make a change I aim to stalk Michel Roux Jr, watch out Michel!
2. Dining at Nobu

Blurry like my sight!
My most favourite birthday present (although the toilet came close Dad), I was taken to Nobu (co-owned by Robert De Niro) – my first Michelin starred experience, and it didn't disappoint. I had planned to photo journal the evening, but after a promising start of a slightly blurred photo of my Rose Martini (to die for!) I was too overcome and promptly forgot. The sushi was like none I have tasted before, there was me thinking it was supposed to be rock hard as in the Boots lunch deal. I had wondered with some trepidation whether I’d enjoy it all as some seafood still scares me, but every single piece just melted in my mouth. The tea smoked lamb with its Peruvian influences was out of this word. It was basically  joyous lamb lollipops with meat that fell off the bone, I’d have happily had it for every course. Finally coffee crème brulee* with whiskey foam in a pretty little espresso cup. It has been months but I can still close my eyes and recount every mouthful. I've tasted the high life and I want more!
*while on the subject the best crème brulee I ever had was at Hush Brasserie on Kingsway, go, eat, NOW!

3. Random drunken cookery lesson with Sat Bains
Following on from Nobu, my housemate got me VIP tickets for Taste of Christmas. I didn't really know what to expect, it was quite last minute and my usual meticulous research and planning for anywhere I go went out the window. Several free glasses of champagne later (you can’t say no when it’s free can you?) and I was suddenly offered the opportunity to go and have a cookery masterclass with Sat Bains, with his two (count them) Michelin stars. The kitchen was space age, with sparkling surfaces and a crazy induction hob that I still think had more than a little to do with black magic, given the only vague explanation I've had is, “er magnets?”. Anyway it was basically everything my kitchen isn't  On the agenda was caramelised baked apples with pine infused custard. I was focusing fairly heavily… well on focusing my eyes actually so the exact recipe eludes me, but I am proud to say I didn't turn the custard into scrambled egg (unlike half the rest of the participants) and I only burned my mouth once, I’m claiming that as a win! I got a cheeky picture afterward and as you can see Sat propped me up nicely.

4. A glorious red Thai lamb curry
A work outing to Busaba Eathai (the website helpfully explains that this is an amalgamation of the words ‘Eat’ and ‘Thai’)  in Covent Garden yielded a beautiful red Thai lamb curry, along with a glorious green curry fried rice with chicken. The place is a chain, not dissimilar to Wagamama or Cha Cha Moon in that you all sit together and food comes as it is ready, rather than in courses, only it’s Thai not Japanese of Chinese.

Unfortunately I was fairly violently ill all night afterwards, but I think that might have more than a little to do with the ginormous slab of chocolate fudge cake I ate at the Haagen Dazs café in Leicester Square afterwards, who incidentally, have possibly the worst customer service I have ever encountered.  I’d risk it again either way (the curry, I am NEVER going back to the Haagen Dazs café!).
5. Wedding cupcakes

After many a month of carting cupcakes into the office, a colleague asked me to make some for her wedding. She was only after a modest two dozen or so and I thought great, that’ll be a breeze. I took the day before off work to allow a bit of contingency and set about making them. Eight hours and a bottle of sparkling wine later I’d nearly had a breakdown. What I should have been able to do with my eyes shut turned into an utter shambles almost from the off. At the outset my scales decided to run out of battery, and I could find no replacement. Then I ran out of icing sugar (after meticulously checking my ingredients at least twice). On icing the first batch (tiramisu cupcakes) they looked like a mess, before I realised I had the wrong icing tip on and had to scrape them down and start again. I made up a batch of vanilla cupcakes and started in disbelief as the mixture only filled 8 cases, not the 12 they have ALWAYS filled in the past. I made more, which facilitated another trip to the shops for more eggs. Then I tried dying the icing to match the brides sash but no matter how much green dye I added they would not get any darker and I had to stop while they were more an apple blossom white than the pistachio I was aiming for, before it tasted of nothing but food colouring. I tried adding decorations, they looked worse, I started again. Eventually, 30 assembled cupcakes later, I went to pack them in all their towering glory into my cupcake carrier, only to discover…. they were too big. I’d only ever used the thing for 12, not 24. There was very little I could do to wing this, emboldened by the booze I decided slightly squished was better than none at all and a chef who’d had a nervous breakdown.

I realise none of this sounds like a highlight, but it is something of which I am proud. I got there in the end and with my cupcake carrier I duly delivered them the next morning to Barnes for the wedding. On the way I made many friends, including a stag party and an entire family. I have come to learn if you carry cake it is a magic ticket to get people to talk to you, like a cat or dog carrier, everyone is obsessed with what is inside. One man nearly walked into a post he was so busy staring and then declared out of nowhere “I’m not stalking you!” before shuffling off. The sun shone, (I think) the cakes got eaten and no one was poisoned. It’s fair to say if I ever agree to the madness again I will be a lot better prepared!!



MotherOfGooses said...

I say, you've done a great job following your gut! All sounds delicious and fun!

Katharine Balyuzi said...

Thanks, it was lovely to look back and think of the year gone by although I realise now I missed loads of stuff out, including a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner thrown by my good friend Nikki. I must keep a better record this year!

Adam said...

Any top moment that includes the sentence "Unfortunately I was fairly violently ill all night afterwards" must truly be wonderful. Loved the recap, thank you. End of World BBQ such a good idea. That's what I cooked pizza cookie for I think, albeit quite a few years early.