Monthly Archives: April 2009
For a while now, Frenchified has been Stultified, i.e. on the back burner whilst I’ve been struggling with unprecedented workload and exhaustion. No longer. I miss writing about France, so I’m dusting off the blog and preparing to give it some renewed OOMPH. Thank you for being patient with my recent lack of posts.
Here’s a photo of the menu from the restaurant at the top of the Centre Pompidou. It has dazzling views over Paris and features as a location in various films, like le Divorce, starring Kate Hudson. I love that film. Every time I think of it I see images of red Hermes handbags…
Everyone has one: a snack of shame. This is a food item or concoction that no one but you understands as delicious. It could be something you bite into every day or a comfort food in which you indulge on sick days or Bridget Jones Nights In with a box of tissues and the DVD of Steel Magnolias. It may be a nostalgia trip from childhood or a recent acquisition of taste. Whatever it is, you cringe whenever someone catches you in the act of eating your snack of shame. Only rarely might you come across someone who gets it.
So what’s the Epicurienne Snack of Shame? you ask. You’ll have to read the rest of this post to find out. For the moment, I’m thrilled to list some Snacks of Shame that friends have allowed me to share.
- Little Miss Denmark writes: “People think I’m a bit freaky ’cause I like everything LIQUORICE flavoured! I also really love dipping celery sticks into chunky peanut butter. And cheese sandwiches with JAM! Not toasted, though. But I’m not embarrassed – I’m PROUD of my weird food habits.”
- Mr Positivity tells me: “My favourite comfort food is 2-3 fresh crepes with a nice, yummy ball of vanilla ice-cream on each of them. Then I squash the ice-cream and spread it length wise and roll it up.”
- American Pie says: “I know it sounds gross but I like ketchup sandwiches. Or frozen peaches dug out of the iced juice and dipped in sugar.”
- She Who Shall Remain Nameless admits she drinks the juice from jars of pickles. Forget eating the pickles, she just likes the liquid they’re preserved in.
- But wait! There’s more from Mr Positivity: “Nothing beats a good old Walkers crisp sandwich.” Ah, but what flavour of Walkers potato crisp is best? Mr P likes prawn cocktail because it adds a ‘zing’ to the sandwich. “At boarding school we also got McCoy’s, Hula Hoops, Monster Munch, Nik Naks…and they all fit nicely between two slices of bread.”
Then the other day I was visiting Tammy’s blog, where in her Almost Twenty Things she ‘fesses up that banana and mayo sandwiches are something she really enjoys. Up in Scotland they invented the deep-fried Mars Bar, which is popular with some. In France they dip bread into their morning coffee (something I still find a bit odd). As for me? When I’m sick it has to be cheese and onion toasted sandwiches – nothing too unusual about that. But when I was a child I loved cold spaghetti (has to be from a tin) sandwiches. That’s what I call a snack of shame, although I can be proud of the fact that I have yet to build giant versions of my favourite naughty foods, like they do on Pimp That Snack. Now, how about sharing your wickedest concoctions with me? Leave a comment below and tell me what you snack on when no one’s watching. One rule applies: it can’t be healthy.
The Epicurienne weight-loss regime was going quite well until the day a certain someone at Edelman PR (you know who you are) gave me a voucher for a mixed dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. In a flash I found myself at a Krispy Kreme outlet, handing over the voucher on exiting a sugar-free daze and entering a sugar-filled phase of doughnut testing. However, the fear of regaining those few lost wobbly bits meant that instead of scoffing the full dozen all by my lonesome in a dark corner somewhere, I had a moment of unusually lucid wisdom, choosing instead to enlist the tastebuds of colleagues and friends to share the calories and help rate the round puffs of mix-n-match naughtiness.
In doing so, I was about to gain far more in dough-naughty knowledge than I would ever lose by donating my doughnuts. One American colleague told me that where she comes from (New Orleans) there is a Krispy Kreme variety called The Sour Cream Cake Doughnut. We don’t get the Sour Cream Cake in the UK apparently; she’s sought it out and failed to find it. “It’s my all-time favourite, made with sour cream!” The American enthused in a fit of pre-doughnut munching nostalgia. I can’t quite imagine how a doughnut would taste when sour cream is a key ingredient, but as it’s possible to make to-die-for chocolate cake with the surprise component of mashed potato, I’m willing to jump on a jet to the States and try one of these special Sour Cream Cakes. Any. Time.
“What about the ‘Hot Now’? Did you get a ‘Hot Now’?”
“A Hot What?” I replied, now thoroughly convinced of my novice status in the world of all things doughnut.
“A ‘Hot Now’. Gosh, I can’t believe you got all these free Krispy Kremes but you don’t know what a ‘Hot Now’ is!” Knowledgeable friend grabbed a doughnut and left to savour it.
A bit of googling later and it appears that a ‘Hot Now’ is a free doughnut that you just may be lucky enough to receive if you’re in a Krispy Kreme ‘Hot Now’ store, where they make their own doughnuts on-site and dough-nate the freshest to those at the front of the queue when the sign flashes, indicating that the latest batch is ready for sale and consumption. (If you live in London, a Hot Now concession is located in Harrods and a stand-alone Hot Now store with live doughnut theatre in Enfield and I have a sugary feeling that there may be more on their way.) Sounds good to me. I just may find myself regaining those lost pounds faster than I thought.
So what did we doughnut-tasters extraordinaire think of our dozen?
- Original glazed doughnut. Nice, simple, not too sugary.
- Chocolate iced doughnut with custard flavour filling. Custard AND chocolate? One of these babies is definitely enough. Share with a friend if you’re watching your waistline.
- Chocolate iced doughnut with kreme flavoured filling. A little less sweet than the previous example. You can probably do this one on your own. One of my favourites
- Chocolate iced glazed doughnut. The dough is very chocolatey and the glaze makes it look like something from Miss Haversham’s dining table but it certainly does give an extra-sugary bite.
- Chocolate iced doughnut with sprinkles. This one is perfect for children’s birthday parties.
- Maple-flavour iced doughnut. Not bad. Not bad at all.
- Glazed doughnut with raspberry filling. An absolute classic and my overall favourite. Just make sure you have enough paper napkins when trying this one, in case of the unexpected OOZE factor.
- Powdered doughnut with strawberry filling. The strawberry is just so strawberry! Ideal for Wimbledon.
- Powdered doughnut with blueberry filling. Not our favourite, although pleasant enough. The strawberry was far more yumptious.
- Powdered doughnut with apple and cinnamon filling. This would be lovely with a cup of apple and cinnamon tea. Winter warming.
- Glazed chocolate cake doughnut. This is choco-central for the chocaholic. Better than…shopping.
- Glazed cruller. What’s a cruller? My, we’re learning a lot now. A cruller is a twisted doughnut shape that looks vaguely like a lethally-spiked Frisbee weapon from a sci-fi film, although far less able to injure. Simple cake, simple glaze and tasty.
The bad news? Calories. For the original glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut we’re looking at 217kcal. For the choc iced with crème flavour filling it’s a mighty 339kcal that you’ll be ingesting. However, for a birthday treat or a post-London Marathon binge session, it’s a lot of fun to get a dozen of these wicked treats and share. I think Krispy Kreme already has my office covered because we certainly see a fair number of them appearing in the staff kitchen on birthdays. If you’re not hungry after reading this post-Freudian analysis of doughnut-dom, I suggest you take a look at the Krispy Kreme website. It’s filled with tempting fun and facts you may never before have known about doughnuts. There are even anecdotes and fan photos, like the one of a guy who accessorised his snowman with Krispy Kreme hat and carry bag. (This one missed his calling; he should be styling for Vogue…)
On a more serious note, Krispy Kreme helps support charities by selling its doughnuts at a charity price so they can be sold on at recommended retail for a charitable profit. Charities to have benefited from this method of sugary fundraising include Christopher’s Smile and Children Helping Children.
Nutritionally, it’s interesting to note that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are Halal, Kosher and Vegetarian-friendly. Historically, they have survived wars and depressions plural, having been founded in North Carolina in 1937. Statistically, it’s estimated that Krispy Kreme is responsible for the manufacture of around 2.7 billion doughnuts per year. Yikes.
I think we can officially conclude that I am now THE Epicurienne Doughnut Expert Extraordinaire.
When I wrote about the St Patrick’s Day cocktail-fest for London Bloggers at Diageo, Australia-based Razzbuffnik liked the sound of the Bushmills apricot mule, so I asked Haran at Splendid Communications to send me the recipe. Here you go, Razz! A little taste of summer for you as the leaves start to turn in the land Downunder…
Bushmills Apricot Mule (Classic adapted by Duncan McRae)
This twist on a classic Moscow mule uses Bushmills ® as its base, and combines the subtle flavours of apricot and the spicy ginger to play upon some of the more exciting sherry cask induced notes found in Bushmills® Black Bush.
50ml Bushmills Black Bush
12.5ml Apricot Liquor
12.5ml Sugar Syrup
25ml Freshly squeezed Lime juice
Dash Orange Bitters
Topped up with Ginger Beer.
Served in a highball glass over ice.
All winter long I’ve been complaining about dry skin, especially following a swim, when the chlorine from the pool leaves a nice, flaky beard on my face, in spite of slathering moisturiser all over it. It’s not just me, apparently; the Day Job office is so dry and full of static that we’ve all been experiencing unattractive skin this year, comparing dry patches with spots and red zones, all of which only flare up while we’re at work. In desperation, I’ve even tried wearing night cream during the day – unheard of! But, hey! It worked. For a while.
To coincide with the return of Flake Face, a package from Shiny Red PR arrived on my desk, as if by magic. Out of it spilled Aveeno skin products (bath salts, small tube of cream, large tube of daily lotion) and American Colleague was by my side in a flash. “Ohmigahd, you’ve got Aveeno!” she cried with what I consider to be excessive enthusiasm for body lotion in boring cream packaging with dull, hippy-green accents. “I always keep it in my drawer.” She pulled out a tube of Aveeno to prove it. “Do they sell it here now?” I, the Aveeno novice, shrugged. “I used to have to get friends to send it over from the States but it looks like it’s crossed the pond, so GREAT!” American Colleague is a super girl, always keen and bright as a button, so I was heartened to have this encouragement to try a product I had never once heard of.
The bad news is: the packaging; it looks like it walked out of a cream and green health food shop. In fact, it looks like it should smell vaguely of linseed oil and carob. The good news is, Aveeno is made by Johnson & Johnson so it should be safe. More bad news – the creams are marked ‘fragrance free’, something that I find off-putting because it’s one of those claims that don’t always turn out to be true and even if they do, ‘fragrance free’ makes me think of allergy sufferers. Then again, I suffer from stress-induced eczema at times, and having recently made the third round of redundancies at the Day Job, I was starting to believe that the Itchy & Scratchy Show referred exclusively to me. Anything was worth a try, especially if it was going to help my skin, but oh-oh, more bad news: the packaging uses the word ‘colloidal’. What on earth? Instead of sounding alluring and feminine, Aveeno was beginning to make me wonder if I’d just walked out of the local hospital’s dermatology clinic. Out came the trusty dictionary, to find out what ‘colloidal’ meant exactly (I was never that great at chemistry, but I can generally tell if a word related to that dreaded subject). The definition according to the Collins Paperback Dictionary is:
COLLOID n A mixture of particles of one substance suspended in a different substance. COLLOIDAL adj.
In this case the particles of one substance are oatmeal and the different substance seems to be a whole list of chem-lab ingredients, from allantoin and glycerine to Distearyldimonium Chloride. This wasn’t looking good, given that I prefer natural skin products made from things like olives.
Still, I promised to give the Aveeno range a test run and test it I have. Here are the results:
- 1. The Aveeno bath salts – unless you enjoy bathing in brown water, then I’d recommend passing on this product. Some of us still like sweet-smelling oils and bubbles. I got out of the bath feeling in need of a shower to wash off the good-for-you brown stuff.
- 2. The Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion – this has been showing some minor improvement on my elbows but remember that a little goes a long way and you need to give it a few minutes to soak in.
- 3. The Aveeno cream – looked and felt to me like the same product as the 24 hour cream (remember I’m not an expert), only in a smaller tube. Now, credit where it’s due – this is great stuff. In the three to four weeks that I’ve been using Aveeno cream as my daily moisturiser, it’s done wonders. My skin has returned to normal, smooth and flake-free. However, it does feel a bit gooey going on and the total lack of fragrance, even a no-fragrance fragrance is not a good thing in my book. I prefer things that smell nice, like olive oil face creams that smell fresh, not necessarily of flower beds or apricots, just fresh and that I do like very much.
So the result of my experiments with Aveeno is that I will be interested to continue using the cream to counteract post-winter facial flakiness but the jury’s out on whether or not to buy a replacement once I’ve finished the tube. The packaging puts me off a bit, as does the healthy look’s conflict with a rather off-putting list of extra chem.-lab ingredients on the reverse. If the packaging were a bit less oatmeal-y and the oatmeal particles could be suspended in a friendlier group of substances, you could probably count me in as a new customer. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if I miss Aveeno when I’ve used it all up. For the moment, however, not a flake in sight.
For lunch today I’m salivating all the way to the nearest Japanese restaurant with Bento. Can’t wait for their melt-in-the-mouth sashimi cut fresh by their samurai sword-wielding sushi chef. On that note, I’m getting seriously hooked on restaurant games. Here’s a demo of one doing the rounds at the moment – The Apprentice Sushi Bar. It’s not as serious as I tend to go for, but it’s addictive foodie fun and Donald Trump is there to en/discourage you every step of the way. Dig your do, Big Don.
Top o’ the morning to ya, and I know I’m a bit late in posting about a St Patrick’s Day celebration, but as a wise, New Zealand-born food-lover once said, ‘better late than never’.
London Bloggers’ Meetup Organiser, Facilitator and All-Round Guru, Andy Bargery and the team at Splendid Communications (Haran, Emma and Chris) recently arranged a heady evening of Guinness and Bushmills whisky-based cocktails at Diageo’s London Headquarters. Here’s the cocktail list for you to dribble over -
I confess I had not one, but two Bushmills apricot mules thanks to Splendid Chris accidentally (on purpose?) over-ordering for me. There’s something about the ginger ale that gives a particularly refreshing zing to this drink, so I didn’t exactly refuse the two highballs of deliciousness. I also braved a Bushmills Black Bush Vanilla Sour, which was wonderfully nostalgic in flavour, the vanilla present but not overpowering. In fact, with cocktails like the Old-Fashioned and a version of the Mint Julep featuring on the menu, everything I tasted made me think of times of yore.
At some point, someone suggested I try the Irish Coffee, but I needed some convincing. Then I saw one, served in a Martini glass, and sneaked a sip. Two dangerously more-ish Irish Coffees later and it was time to learn how to pour a Guinness.
Duncan makes sure I don’t spill a drop… ‘Allo love. What kin i getcha?
The mixologist for the evening was one Duncan Macrae and a patient man he must be for he spent some time teaching a small crowd of us to pour Guinness. We were told to hold the glass at a 45 degree angle, start to pour against the side of the glass and as the glass fills to around the two-thirds mark, ease it into an upright position, stop pouring and leave to settle. Once the liquid has turned completely dark, it’s time to top up the pint. Duncan showed me how to do a shamrock shape on the head, and this I managed to achieve… just, although it looked like the sort of shamrock that had been trodden on by a herd of marauding sheep, i.e. not the smoothest shape you’ve ever seen.
Those are the chins of serious concentration and the bud of a shaky shamrock.
Splendid Chris enjoys a pint o’ the black stuff.
Flanked by Melanie Seasons of Fake Plastic Noodles (left) and Splendid Chris (right).
Duncan Macrae tells Timinator that under no circumstances will he be served again tonight. No siree. Enough is enough.
Katie and Andy Bargery with their Bushmills Irish Coffees.
Apart from testing the Bushmills cocktails and learning to pull a pint, we also discovered that Maltese Guinness is alcohol free (it tastes quite nice, really, but nowhere near as dark or heavy as the real McCoy), that there is such a thing as Red Guinness only it isn’t red, it’s just branded that way, (in fact, when I tried it, the main difference was in the taste. It’s just like regular Guinness only maltier), and Drew from Chameleon Net spoke to us about the (then) forthcoming talk at the next Meetup, featuring the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
That Meetup happened last week. Once again it was good to catch up with all the regulars and meet some newbies to the blogosphere. The Equality and Human Rights Commission were represented by some passionate and entertaining speakers, raising our awareness of what they’re all about. One of their key areas of debate was whether to use traditional journalists or bloggers to write about their causes. Personally, when I hear of more hard-copy periodicals closing their doors and more on-line periodicals opening up, I think we’ll be left with no choice but to find a way for the two to co-exist. Yet, it’s also easy to understand that a fully-qualified journalist will be better equipped with certain skills than your average blogger, but sometimes bloggers explore viewpoints which journalists have failed to represent.
Technology is also changing opinion on who would be better suited to covering certain stories, especially as with a single click on our phone/PDA/ laptop we can upload content to the internet, be it to our blog, or in 140 characters or less on Twitter, using any one of an increasing number of social networking sites and applications. In summary, technology is making it possible fofr just about anyone to break a story or contribute to it.
So, where to tonight? I’m off to a foodies’ Easter egg tasting, courtesy of Word of Mouth, the Guardian’s online food blog. Thank heavens I didn’t give up chocolate for Easter. Missing out on this event would have been an Epicurean travesty.