Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Wednesday, 5 September 2012
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Monday, 11 April 2011
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
It's Halloween soon. Woooo-oooo-ooooh. Spooky.
Personally I prefer to carve peppers rather than pumpkins. They come ready-hollowed and in a variety of colours. But pumpkins are good too. I'll be doing a massive one on Sunday and making soup with the insides. I'll also be hosting a vegetable carving competition. Prizes for the most frightening lantern and for the most original choice of vegetable. I'm a little over-excited at the prospect.
Friday, 11 December 2009
James had a birthday in November so, being a top-class girlfriend, I whisked him away for a romantic weekend in a mystery location. Well, in all honesty, it was less a whisking and more just a matter of getting him to accompany me on a crowded commuter train to Rye. Which turned out to be truly mysterious as James had never even heard of it before. For anyone in a similar situation I can tell you that it is a small (but pretty and historic) town near the south coast, about four miles from Camber Sands.
We stayed at The George which I found through the Mr & Mrs Smith boutique hotel directory (I know! Get me! Who do I think I am? Booking into boutique hotels as if I’m a proper grown up or something…) and was very nice indeed. Our four-poster bed was truly, profoundly comfortable, the staff were obliging and the bar pleasantly cosy. The other patrons were slightly twattish in a loud and boring, new-money kind of way, but that was hardly the George’s fault.
What I want to tell you about though, is the restaurant we visited on the night we arrived. It doesn’t have a website yet, but a gushing description of Tuscan Kitchen on the hotel’s blog (and the fact it was only just round the corner) made me think it would be a good place to go for a low-key first-night dinner.
It’s run by a couple, Genn (who does front of house) and Franco (the chef). She’s from the UK, but has only recently returned after years of living in Florence, and he’s Italian. This combination is reflected in the restaurant itself which is a confusing kind of place in many ways. The building is very Olde England, all exposed beams and historical prints, but the food is pure Tuscany. With just two of them working there the service is a little haphazard (to say the least), but it’s friendly and the food is worth waiting for.
I started with the antipasti, expecting a couple of slices of salami and a few olives. What arrived was a massive platter consisting of at least three different types of salami (a garlicky wild boar once particularly stood out) as well as generous curls of salty, fatty ham, slices of cheese (I’m not sure what sort and didn’t get the chance to ask, but it was sort of half way between manchego and parmesan) and a mound of olives, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. It was easily enough for two, but James was having some rustic soup so I (wo)manfully ate my way through about three quarters of it before admitting defeat.
We had ruefully acknowledged that we weren’t going to have space for the whole Italian style parade of starter-pasta-main-desert so divvied up the courses between us. James had the Tagliata – strips of tender beef with rocket and parmesan which was very good, and I had the truffle ravioli which was one of the single nicest things I have ever eaten.
People are weird about truffles. I think it’s because they’re inescapably sexy in a way other supposedly aphrodisiac foods aren’t. I love oysters, but the high I get from a half-dozen is more like a general feeling of energetic well-being than something that sets my loins afire. I’m a big fan of asparagus too, but surely their seductive properties are less to do with taste and more about a) rarity value and b) their suggestive shape.
Truffles on the other hand are sexy in themselves andTuscan Kitchen’s ravioli were full of them. The oval parcels of perfectly cooked pasta contained a smooth, truffle-studded filling and were basking a creamy, cheesy sauce containing plenty of generous shavings too. I would have licked the plate if such things weren’t frowned on in polite company.
We’d ordered a second bottle of wine just before the mains, but it didn’t turn up until we were nearly finished. But way of an apology the removed it from the bill and also plied us with delicious chilled desert wine. The panna cottas we’d seen floating by on their way to other tables looked pretty good but, after the truffle experience, a cigarette seemed more appropriate.