If you want to get to grips with a kitchen knife, you may as well ask a professional chef
They do say that a cut from a blunt knife is worse than a cut from a sharp knife. Thankfully, I wouldn't know as so far I haven't managed to do myself any harm with the less-than-perfect knives I use in my kitchen. I have however, managed to leave a series of scars on my fingernails recently, with a brand new, sharp edition to my set of knives. An indication if nothing else, of how terrible my chopping technique is.
Did the judges get it right this year?
The excitement at last night’s award ceremony was palpable, as chefs from around the globe turned up for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012. Noma’s René Redzepi admitted to feeling the pressure when MSN Food spoke to him, whilst Raymond Blanc was quick to point out that plenty of fantastic restaurants worthy of being in the top 50 are nowhere to be seen in the list.
With news that a champagne has been created specifically to be matched with food, I went to find out just how you go about matching bubbly with bisque.
It would be fair to say that I love champagne. It expertly manages to turn everyday situations into occasions, just with its bubbly presence. Another big love of mine (as you might have guessed), is food. On hearing that one champagne house has created a champagne specifically to be matched with food, I had to find out more.
Okay, I know babies cry, but I think my latte's got tinnitus...
Here's my dilemma: I love sitting in a coffee shop, but lately the screaming kids are spoiling it. I don't mean to sound heartless, but crying babies and toddler tantrums are not a backdrop I would choose for sipping my latte. I'm after a relaxed environment – somewhere where I can enjoy my coffee in relative peace without junior meltdowns occurring left, right and centre. Which seems to happen a LOT in the places I frequent lately.
The solution to this problem? I think it's largely to do with my choice of coffee shop. I can't expect mums not to go to coffee shops – they're after a strong black coffee and a place to catch up, which is fair enough. But there must be coffee shops where they don't go. You know, somewhere... quieter.
And before I get branded as a child-hater, do consider this: who actually wants to hear screaming babies and toddler tantrums when they go for a coffee? No one, not even the mums. How often have you willingly asked for a side-order of screaming, when the barista asks if you want chocolate sprinkles? There's a huge expectation to be fine with the situation, and smile sympathetically at the mother and the screaming baby, whilst your eardrums split with the shrill impact of 110 decibels that only a crying child can produce. It's probably the caffeine withdrawal, but I'm losing my patience. And I know I'm not alone in this. A recent coffee shop experience included a very decent latte, complete with crying babies in stereo. After the guy next to me stood up, packed up, downed his coffee and left in a visible strop, I got to thinking: "I need to go somewhere else."
So what's the solution? I should get off the mainstream path, I think. Go niche if you like. Ditch the Costas and the Starbucks. I need to find a place which doesn't attract mums and their broods. No offence. It's just my ears can't take it anymore. Should I go more local-level and shirk the chains? Or find a cafe on top of a hill, where buggies just don't go? Who knows, but it's my next mission. And when I've found this place, this oasis of calm, infused with the heady scent of just-brewed, freshly ground coffee, on no account am I telling anyone where it is. Not even for money.
Do screaming kids spoil things when you're eating or drinking out? Or is it really not an issue? Have you found a coffee shop where you can quietly sip a latte, and if so, where on earth is it?! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
With The Tea Guild announcing the UK's top hotel for afternoon tea, what is it that makes an afternoon tea exceptional?
There are awards flying around for afternoon tea at the moment. The Athenaeum Hotel recently won The Tea Guild's Top London Afternoon Tea 2012. Meanwhile, Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, Surrey, won The Tea Guild’s Top City and Country Hotel Tea Award 2012. The Traditional Afternoon Tea at Pennyhill Park (£28.00) includes a selection of teas and coffee, freshly made sandwiches, assorted pastries and homemade scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Sounds delicious enough, but what made it the winning choice? Well, according to the judges, the beautiful surroundings, exceptional service and impressive knowledge from the staff that served them, helped to bag them the top slot.
There are quite literally thousands of afternoon teas popping up all over the UK. Themed teas, traditional teas, slightly odd teas – you name it, they've pretty much though of it. But with an influx in afternoon teas, comes an influx in mediocrity. So what makes an afternoon tea exceptional? For me, an afternoon tea that stands out has to be made up of the following five things:
Excellent quality of food.
A decent range of teas, tipples and bubbles.
Relaxed and stylish surroundings & atmosphere.
No snooty or pretentious staff.
Excellent service & staff knowledge.
I haven't tried out the afternoon tea at Pennyhill Park, but my favourite experience so far has to be afternoon tea at The Ritz. Granted the clientele definitely fit a senior demographic, but the afternoon tea was superb. It was made better still by our waiter, who had just the right amount of cheeky humour, and an extensive knowledge of the tea list at The Ritz. Afternoon tea isn't standard weekly behaviour let's face it. It's a chance to spoil yourself and whoever you have with you. If you get served up dry sandwiches, rock hard scones and warm Champagne, it's going to leave you feeling short-changed and ripped-off. And there's nothing worse than eating your way through an afternoon tea, with a side serving of disgruntlement. But, if you come away from the experience feeling utterly spoilt rotten, it's going to get my vote.
What makes the perfect afternoon tea in your book? Have you had a delicious afternoon tea somewhere, or a really awful one? We'd love to hear about your experiences of it, and where you'd recommend/avoid when it comes to this great British institution. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
With some clever tactics under your belt, you can get your food shop done super-quickly.
I'm an impatient kind of person, which intensifies when I'm in a busy supermarket. If a supermarket is quiet I'll happily take my time, staring at gooey cheeses, and drooling over the deli counter. But, if it's mayhem in there, I basically want to get out as quickly as possible before I experience supermarket rage. Too many cooks and all that. So, here are my tips for express food shopping:
I'm celebrating Bacon Connoisseurs' Week with er, chocolate.
Seeing Nigella Lawson's bacon brownies hitting the headlines this week, reminded me of something I tried a while ago: chocolate-covered bacon. Yep, chocolate plus bacon. It sounded a little odd, and had sparked a similar craze with food fans, as the initially odd-sounding salted caramel concept. You might raise an eyebrow at the growing popularity of the salty-sweet phenomenon, but don't knock it till you've tried it people.
These days, restaurants are serving up 'concepts' as well as food, but has great cooking slipped off the menu?
Restaurants will go to serious lengths to get us through their doors these days. Offers, discounts, nostalgic menus and famous names have all been used to lure in the treasured customer. Add to that list, the concept restaurant and you have firsthand proof that it's not always the menu that gets bums on seats. Well, initially anyway. With the likes of Dans le Noir (where diners eat in the dark), Inamo (where customers choose their food electronically from a menu projected onto their table) and Circus (where acrobatic stunts and cabaret are also served up), food is definitely not the only thing on the menu.
Sketch has collaborated with artist Martin Creed for the latest re-design of its Gallery restaurant (pictured above). Art is just as much on the menu as food is at Sketch, and even the toilets are a work of weird and wonderful design. Creed (who won the Turner Prize for that installation - y'know, the one where lots of lights switched on and off), has redesigned Sketch's Gallery restaurant so that nothing matches. Bright? Yes. Subtle? Er....no. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I don't think it really matters. So long as the food backs it up, Sketch is onto a winner.
The danger starts when a restaurant is no longer a restaurant. And when is a restaurant not a restaurant? When the food gets sidelined in favour of something else, that's when. Tempting diners with a quirky concept is a great idea, but if the food that arrives falls short of your expectations, the novelty of a new restaurant concept quickly starts to wear off. Customers aren't daft. Themes and concepts can propel a restaurant into the spotlight, but if the food doesn't deliver, people are going to vote with their wallets. If you're not judging a restaurant with your taste buds, you probably weren’t there to eat in the first place.
When a restaurant manages to match good food with a creative concept, it can really work. Yo! Sushi paved the way for conveyor-belt sushi in the UK. The concept wouldn't have lasted long, if the food had been rubbish. Let's face it, the Gallery restaurant at Sketch might be visual overkill for some people, but the design concept goes further than the colour of the carpet. Sketch’s co-founder and three Michelin-starred chef, Pierre Gagnaire has designed the menu in collaboration with Martin Creed, to reflect the global influences the artist has drawn on. Ingredients from around the world are featured on his menu, with a wine list to mirror it with choices from countries as far-flung as Japan and Uruguay.
Restaurant concepts need to balance style with substance as far as I'm concerned. Just as model looks but no personality are a real disappointment, so is a meal where more attention has been paid to the colour of the walls, than the food on the plate. Get them both right, and you're winning. But first and foremost, a restaurant's got to be about the food, right?
Have you eaten in a concept restaurant? How was the food? And what was the experience like in general? Did the concept add to your dining experience, or get in the way of it? Do you get excited about new restaurant concepts, or do you tend to pick restaurants based on the menu more than anything else? Let us know in the comments section below.
King of pantomime, Christopher Biggins, supports Mr. Kipling’s campaign to bring a spot of seasonal cheer to the nation with its Christmas Cake-To-Go... More King of pantomime, Christopher Biggins, supports Mr. Kipling’s campaign to bring a spot of seasonal cheer to the nation with its Christmas Cake-To-Go dispensers. From 10th December, the dispensers will be located in 20 spots in towns and cities across the country and will be dispensing free cake at the touch of a button!
Date 21/12/12, Duration 1:34, Views 751
Has the horse meat food scandal affected what food you buy?
Thanks for being one of the first people to vote. Results will be available soon. Check for results
- Yes, I'm avoiding all processed meat
- Yes, I'm avoiding Findus and specific products mentioned
- No, the horse meat products have been taken off the shelves
- No, I avoided processed meat anyway