Wednesday, 28 March 2007

A Weekend With Food Bloggers

Bloggers are like buses. You wait seven months for one... and then eight come along together. I started this blog last August and, though I've communicated with quite a few fellow electronic diarists via comments and email since, I'd never actually met one in the flesh, so to speak, before Saturday.
My weekend adventure started with an invitation to go shopping. Not just any old shopping, but a trip to London's best food bazaar, Borough Market. As this is somewhere I love, just 20 minutes from my house on the 149 bus, and the invitation came from a blogger with whom I really empathise, it was an absolute no-brainer. Especially as Roshani and Goon had arranged to meet visiting American bloggers Vanessa and Dave Balchen from What Geeks Eat.

The only problem was that I get up early every day of the week and Saturday morning is my time to have a lie in. So by the time my dad and I got down to Southwark we'd not only missed the best of the fruit and veg, but we'd also missed the Bishop heading off to join the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on their march to commemorate the abolition of slavery.

Never mind, I thought, I'll drink to that!.
Ros searches out some interesting meat
Roshani and Goon from "Living To Eat",
shopping at the butcher's stall
Escaping a cold Spring day, my hosts had retired to the Anchor, where we soon met up for a beer (or two) (or three). Sipping on some fine London ales (Spanish Rioja in Ros's case), we engaged in delightful discussion of a wide range of topics ranging from soul music to Sri Lankan hoppers and just about everything in-between. I've been very fond of Ros since I discovered her blog. She so obviously loves food and is an experimentalist with an open mind, prepared to try anything and to make mistakes. I so much prefer food bloggers like Roshani to those who copy the work of professional chefs and aim for perfection in what often looks to me like plastic food. Most importantly, Ros has a palate.
Roshani, me and VanessaA warm welcome awaited me at The Anchor
Vanessa and Dave (from Middleton WI, just a few miles from Lake Monona where Otis Redding died in 1967 in a plane crash) were very lively in conversation, and were keen to learn about my training and college life.

As a young food blogger with first hand experience of life in professional kitchens, I found it a great pleasure to exchange culinary anecdotes from the perspective of the UK food industry with their cooking tales from across the pond. Their youngest son Dexter seemed very comfortable and confident talking with us adults, something that very much reminded me of myself at a similar age.
After a few beers, the Balchens disappeared off to continue their London sightseeing. Ros, Goon, Mike and I popped back to the market to buy some ostrich meat from Gamston Wood Farm and then headed off to eat at Borough Market's famous brasserie Fish! (What do you call a fish with no eyes? Answer). This seafood restaurant provided excellent value for money with a large choice of simple dishes using fresh, well-cooked fish. It made the perfect end to a great day.
But my weekend with bloggers didn't end there. For quite some time now I've been a regular reader of Food & Drink in London, a restaurant review blog by Howard Vaan and Ben Bush. Howard lives just a few hundred yards from me in Hackney but we'd never met.

Occasionally Howard and Ben review places that I've been to, allowing me to exchange opinions on the food. Other times they review places where I'd love to eat but haven't yet got enough cash in the piggy bank to permit a visit.
Enjoying a British Sunday lunch with French wines
My Sunday lunch companions -
Howard, Ben, Krista and Jessica
Other lunch invitees were Krista from Londonelicious, Jessica from Ripe London and Monkey Gland from Jamfaced who unfortunately couldn't make it. Krista and I had exchanged messages previously about Broadway Market, but it was my first encounter with Jessica, an American foodie in London.
Check out that cork!
Fine wining...
Boy, do these guys know how to feast! The planned starter was seared scallops with leeks and pancetta. Unfortunately we discovered at the last moment that most of Howard's beloved molluscs were D.O.A. so they had to be discarded, but the leeks and pancetta were delicious. The next offering was a gorgeously creamy potato soup, garnished with pan-fried foie gras (rosemary for me, as I don't eat foie gras). The soup had real depth, with the natural flavours of the potato maintaining perfect clarity and enhanced by the other ingredients rather than masked by them.

The main event was slow roasted leg of lamb with Lyonnaise potato and beans in a mayonnaise/aioli-like garlic emulsion. The lamb was succulently tender and flavoursome and the thin slices of potato were very tasty, if a tad firm. The cooking juices were served as a sauce. This is something I often do myself, reducing the juices down to give a thick consistency and to intensify the flavours.
When it came to the wine, just have a look at the picture above. See the cork floating in the bottle? Now click on the photo to enlarge it. Yes, you're reading it correctly. It's a Château Margaux. Young maybe, but Margaux is Margaux is Margaux. I've lost my Premier Cru virginity at last!
If the claret wasn't enough, we enjoyed pink champagne between the main course and the dessert. The final course was a blood orange jelly with grapefruit segments and cream, which went down extremely well but a little too quickly for the good of my stomach. Regrettably I had to rush down this fine dessert before shooting off to take my mum to Heathrow Airport to catch her flight to Australia.

Krista and Jessica were great company around the table during all of this and were certainly not shy coming forward with their opinions and entertaining conversation.
Just a little drop more, please
...and champagne rosé
We discussed many topics as the afternoon sped by, many of which I must admit are no longer with me as a result of the claret and champagne. I do remember that we all exchanged our thoughts about blogging and it was interesting that everyone had a different perspective on what was good and less good in the world of food blogs. I found it really interesting that we all had quite different likes and dislikes - to me that's what makes blogging so exciting.

Not surprisingly, by the time I said my farewells, Howard's kitchen was looking like a war zone. Remains of the roast lamb, empty pots, pans, bottles, glasses and eggshells. And, amongst the wreckage, every food blogger's most important kitchen utensil... the camera!
I'm glad I didn't have to do the washing up
To all of my new friends - thanks for a great weekend and... Carry on Blogging!


Columbus Foodie said...

So cool that you were able to meet and hang out with fellow food bloggers. When I met my local compadres, it was so nice to be able to sit and have a conversation with someone who "gets it". I hope this is just the beginning of your networking with other locals, as you have so much to offer the food blogging community in general.

tschoerda said...

ok, i am jealous ... there are only like 5 foodbloggers here in austria (that i know of) and i did not even find the time yet to accept the kind invitation of angelika to visit her in vienna ... i need to alter my priorities!

hanging out with fellow foodies sounds like real fun!

Vanessa said...

Aidan, we had such fun with you, Mike, Ros, and Goon. Your descriptions of the day are excellent and I have no idea how you remembered all that without taking notes. We're hoping to dine at Cafe Spice tonight. Cheers!

Jess said...

Thanks, it was great meeting you, too! I should add that Aidan exhibited the most respect for parsley I have ever seen. His knife skills are second to none.

Ben said...

It was great to meet you too Aidan. A fun afternoon indeed. You probably did well to miss the visit to the Royal Oak afterwards. Monday was a bit of a haze...

Keep up the good work.

Mike said...

Vanessa - if you are going to Cafe Spice tonight you can ask them about the chefs in the photo in the hall and win the prize. Everyone there knows Aidan and it would be nice if you tell them that he recommended the place (assuming you like it, of course, but I'm sure you will).

We are enjoying reading your holiday blog. Don't you Americans get around a bit! I guess you have a different sense of distance to us. Not many Brits would dash from one side of the country to the other like you guys do.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

I was just going to ask 'so which restaurant was this?' before i saw the kitchen picture. Very jealous, sounds like a lovely afternoon! - A lurker.

Howard said...

Hi Trig. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the compliments on the food. Just a small correction - the Margaux was actually a 2001 Chateau Ferriere from the Margaux appellation, rather than from the Chateau itself. You can buy Ch. Margaux 2001 from Berry Bros. for £230 a bottle - I think you're all great, but that would have been a bit much (and it wouldn't have been at all ready to drink).

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Why oh why are there never any events for us Northern food bloggers?

Or maybe there are, and I just never get invited...

Trig said...

Columbus - cheers for the great support. I know exactly what you mean by people who "get it"

Tschoerda - have you been in contact with any of these Austrian food bloggers? 5 bloggers scouring the markets of Vienna would make for an interesting post

Vanessa - Please let me know how you find Café Spice, I'm sure you'll walk out with full stomachs and smiles on your faces

Jess - Awww shucks, now you're making me blush

Ben - Sounds like a laugh... so did you guys pull an all-nighter then?

Howard - £230 would be a bit absurd for anything but a very special occasion. I told my dad about the wine and he did say that a true Chateau Margaux claret from 2001 would need at least 7 or 8 years resting before drinking. My dad bought me a copy of Hugh Johnson a while ago but I haven't got round to opening it yet.

Scott - You never know, you might just find you're part of a Northern blogging community lol

Joel said...

Trig - "resting" is what you do with meat. What you meant was "laying down", and that doesn't mean what you do all day on Saturdays when you aren't invited to Borough Market.

Mark said...

Sounds a great day - impressive amount of washing up as well :-S Don't for get to vote to keep Borough Market as it is now and not destroyed by redevelopment - read more about this at

Trig said...

Mark - Thanks. I didn't know about this. I'll put something on the blog later on.

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