Thursday, 21 June 2007

Destination: Foodie Heaven

I've lost my oyster virginity! And it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Last Friday evening I revisited one of my favourite places in London - the amazing Borough Market. Thanks to Walid from for organising a gastro tour of the market, visiting various market stalls and shops with food journalists Susan Smillie of The Guardian and The Observer, Tonia George of Waitrose Food Illustrated and UK food bloggers including Julia from A Slice of Cherry Pie, Krista from Londonelicious, Ben from Food and Drink in London, Kenneth from Mappetite, Mike from Sizemore, Andy from Andy Hayler's Restaurant Guide, Nick (aka. Monkey Gland) from JamFaced, Hazel from Londonist and Sara from The Kitchen Pantry.

Beyond temptation - oysters for food bloggers
Led by celebrity food writer Celia Brooks Brown, our tour embarked from Tapas Brindisa. Destination: foodie heaven! The tour took us all around the market to take in the sights, the smells and - yes, my envious ones - the copious free samples! If I remember correctly, our first stop was at the Total Organics juice bar. Here we got to try some extremely potent shots of wheatgrass juice - just one shot of this lurid green liquid provides the same amount of vitamins as an entire week's recommended intake of fruit and veg! They were chased down with a shot of the soothing (and very much more palatable) açaí. By the way, Totally Organic was where I bought the frozen açaí I used to make my Christmas dessert of persimmon with açaí berry & mascarpone ice cream.

In his write-up of the tour, Nick from Jamfaced mentioned the extraordinary white balsamic that we sampled at one of the olive oil stalls, and I really want to reiterate its brilliance. I'm pretty sure no one else on the tour had tasted or even known about white balsamic before. I had - but to be honest my previous experience really had no significance at all because this stuff was in a league of its own. This was the World Cup winner of vinegars.

Other stops on the tour included tastings of some excellent cheeses, including an addictive Parmigiano as well as some fine Cheshires compliments of Mrs. Bourne. The best scallop guy in town, the aptly named magician Darren Brown at Shellseekers, provided us with some of his mouth-wateringly juicy scallops, every one of which he hand-dives himself. There we were also offered a quick nibble on some raw samphire, which brought back some great memories of my time training at The Providores.

The wonderfully colourful Isle of Wight Tomatoes stall provided us with a great opportunity to discuss with the seller his many varieties in all shapes and sizes. He also had a small collection of chillies, as well as some organic cucumbers that resembled courgettes in their firm texture. It didn't take long for Julia to succumb to the allure of a punnet of his best cherry tomatoes, and I seem to recall seeing her sneak off to snap up some of the gorgeous parmesan cheese that I mentioned earlier.

Our first respite came on arrival at Bedales, where we sat down to taste some wines and to munch on some of the canapés dinky snacks provided. These included salamis, sun-blush tomatoes, pickled garlic cloves and a very good paté, the content of which sadly escapes me. Now you may or may not know that Bedales has a claim to fame, besides its renowned wine cellar. For those of you out there who are fans of Bridget Jones, you may recall that she was supposed to have dwelt above The Globe pub, which is right next to Bedales. If you knew that already, you wouldn't be surprised to know that it was Bedales that was used as the setting for the infamous fight scene between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. And it was Bedales' very own front window that they famously threw themselves through (actually it was a specially-installed pane of sugar glass, or so we were informed).

Another memorable part of the tour was the truffle stand, where you could inhale the tuber's unmistakable scent in every form you can imagine. Some products of particular note included their indescribably pungent truffle honey, a miniscule amount of which on a small chunk of bread caused an explosion on the palate. The stall's impressively large jar of fresh truffles was also an eye-opener (and nose-opener), and provided great fun as we shoved our snouts past the lid to breathe in the pure, unadulterated truffle aromas.

One of the last stop-offs on the tour was for some delicious organic smoked salmon, served with a little drizzling of dill sauce. I'm not a fan of dill and probably never will be, but I couldn't help but admire its excellent combination with the tasty smoked salmon. Before heading off to Roast for a glass of white and my very first oyster, there was one last place we just had to visit. At Brindisa we were plied with tapas including dressed white asparagus sprinkled with pimentón, some cheeses partnered with quince jelly and figs, some highly addictive chorizo and, best of all, hand-carved wafer thin slices of jamón Ibérico.

All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I got to meet up with bloggers and like-minded foodies once again and got to try some great quality food and drink. And I got the day off college for the visit - after all, it was strictly for educational purposes, of course.


Sara - Piperita said...

It was absolutely and educational tour!
Nice meeting you!

Julia said...

Whoo hoo, I helped you lose your oyster virginity! Not a claim I ever thought I'd make, I have to say ;-)

William said...

It REALLY does sound like foodie heaven! Congratulations! You are so lucky.

Richard said...

damm i'm jealous - sounds like you all had a great time! You'll have to give us the low-down on the markets when you move

Trig said...

Thanks guys - it was a really enjoyable experience and to anyone who has not yet visited Borough Market - what's keeping you? I've got to get my head down now - exams start on Monday.

Gary S. Hurd said...

As a former professor of medicine I must observe that in high doses all vitimins are toxic! The known effects are liver and kidney failure, and death.

Take care.

Trig said...

Thanks for the warning, Gary, but Mother Nature always looks after us. The wheatgrass juice was so disgusting it needed a large slug of açaí to wash it down afterwards. I reckon you'd need to be suicidal to overdose on that stuff.

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