Archive | January, 2012

Dinner Party Daaarling!

25 Jan

One of the things I love most about my culinary journey is attending dinner parties: the meals are prepared with love and the company is fantastic.

A few weeks ago, I attended a wonderfully intimate dinner party, which blew my socks off.  The host, Tori, went all out and prepared a three course meal with precision, perfection and some full on sass!

It was delicious!  Big shout out to Tori, who is most certainly the hostess with the mostest!

Starter
Baked prawns and portobello mushroom with a sweet chilli dressing

Main
Creamy Cava Chicken with bacon and leeks served with rosemary and garlic roast potatoes

Dessert
Caramelised apples topped with whipped cream and meringue pieces. Served with homemade shortbread

Finished with a round of yummy teas!

Tori, your boyf is one lucky fella! 😉

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For Ladies Wot Brunch… At Tom’s Kitchen

8 Jan

On Friday 30th December 2011, we went for our last meeting of the year, dubbed The Survivor’s Brunch!  “But what is a Survivor’s Brunch?”  I hear you ask?  Well, many of our Ladies Wot Brunch travelled to sunnier climes for the Christmas and New Year Break, leaving the rest of us here in good ol’ Blighty to fend the cold and survive the brutal British Weather.  Forget Destiny’s Child!  WE were the REAL survivors!  And so, to build up our stamina, we decided to go Tom’s Kitchen, the Chelsea brasserie opened by Michelin Star Chef, Tom Aikens.

Booking

The process was ridiculously straight forward.  Once I decided where we’d be brunching, and checked the website, I opted to call the restaurant directly to make our reservation given the fact that the attendee list was fluid and I wanted to discuss my options.  I was assured that numbers could be increased or decreased easily and after a few minutes of conversation, the reservation was done and dusted.  Although I did not receive a booking confirmation following the call, I felt pretty confident that all would be a-ok.  And a day before the brunch, I received a confirmation phone call.  Lovely!

Gist!

We welcomed some lovely new Ladies who certainly had a refreshing outlook on life and this was expressed in our conversation trail.  From the weirdo who thought it befitting to take one of the Ladies on a first date to the beach… at night(!), to our responses to celebrity singers throwing out their phone number on £50 notes, I learnt a lot and laughed my head off!  Here are some of the funniest stories shared:

Michelin Star Mami: Brunching in Tom Aikens’ eaterie, it was apt that the subject of fine dining came up.  Now I’ve been to many social gatherings with one of our Ladies Wot Brunch in particular, and when prompted she insists on being taken out on dates to Michelin Star restaurants.  When we delved further into this, her theory was that a man who could excite her palette would be more than likely to stimulate her mind.  And the effort and energy put into selecting and dining at a Michelin Star restaurant spoke leaps and bounds about the kind of man he would be in a relationship.  C’est vrai ou faux?  Would it be better to go on a date to Nandos if the guy says he is cutting his coat according to his cloth?  Would you appreciate it if he took you to a Michelin Star restaurant on a 2 for 1 offer?  What is the acceptable criterion?  And how important is fine dining on a first date?  Thoughts please!

First date on the beach?!  This one HAD to be shared! It all started when this particular young lady, who at the time was studying for her University finals, decided she needed a break.  One evening, she went out with her girlfriends and met a sexy something in the club.  He obviously seemed like a nice, happening guy and so when he suggested they swap numbers, she thought nothing of it.  They arranged to meet soon after, except his proposed meeting spot was the beach (she studied in a coastal town). “OK, perhaps we’ll be meeting there and heading elsewhere”, she thought and so she happily obliged.  But when they met and Mr Man was gassing without making any signs of the leaving the shingle-shore, the alarm bells started ringing.  And rightly so!  I should also add that at this point, we were all screaming “what the heck were you still doing there?!”  And it gets worse!  It’s getting dark and Mr Weirdo is still chatting smack, then all of a sudden he starts coming up with some ludicrous conspiracy theories:

“I think Michael Jackson is actually dead (at this time he was definitely still alive and kicking)

“Biggie and Tupac on the other hand, are very much still alive”

“Why don’t we see many pregnant women walking about the place?  It’s because aliens were dropped here on earth.  That’s the only explanation for the sudden appearance of grown people.”

“If money can’t buy your love, then Starbucks can.  As in Star + Bucks.  As in celebrity money [insert useless immodest laughter here]”

It is now dark.  There is no one else around this beach.  And this man is quite clearly a stark raving loony!  What to do?!  Luckily, she had planned an exit strategy and managed to escape to a friend’s house who lived nearby, even though he insisted on following her all the way there, and becoming borderline aggressive when she wouldn’t let him enter the flat.  What a mad man!  Thankfully, she’s now found a lovely, sane boyfriend who takes her on dates to much better places!  Moral of the story: Romance your books!  They will never lead you to the beach at night!

Who pays for the cab ride home?  I’m sure this is not the first time this question has come up amongst groups across the globe.  Who is responsible for the cab fare home?  A few months back I went out for a night of drinks and dancing and had a great time.  We were vibing, sipping champagne and the dude had rhythm!  So when the night drew to a close, we reluctantly agreed that cabs needed to called and homes needed to be returned to.  As a gentleman should, he arranged both taxis and let me know once it arrived.  I was put in the cab and spent the journey smiling as I recollected the great evening we’d spent together.  But the smile was abruptly removed when I got home and the taxi driver said “That’ll be £20 please love.”  WHATTT?!  The dude had not made the arrangement?!  I was quietly indignant, and that night, although he was not relegated to the do-not-answer-phone-calls pile, he definitely received a strike against his name.  But when I shared this story with the Ladies, I had a mixed bag of responses.  My thinking is that if you have requested my company for the evening, I am in your care and for those few hours, my wellbeing is your responsibility.  It’s totally different to going for dinner or drinks with your male friends, because you both know what the 411 is.  There are no romantic intentions, no one is trying to impress anyone and therefore no financial obligations exist.  I have no problems splitting bills and paying for my own taxi fare in these platonic situations and on occasions have even spotted the entire food bill too.  In short, I am not against women paying!  HOWEVER, when you’re out on a date, it’s a different ball game, and I know that men can and do pay for taxis because in a similar previous situation, the gentleman not only paid for my cab home but also my cab to the venue!  Am I spoilt for expecting this?  Is this not the norm?  Some of the Ladies believed that his responsibility ended once he called the taxi, skipped a few steps and then started and ended again once he called/text/instant messaged to make sure I got home ok.  Really?  What is the official rule?  Does one exist?  Do you weigh it up based on how good the evening was?  Whatever the conclusion, one thing it reminded me was to make sure you gats ya £$€ with you at all times!  Do not forget yourself and allow any person to disgrace you because you’re expecting them to foot the bill.  Boys are getting brazen, and feel no way to humiliate you!  Do you want to be looking fresh, hair done, nails done, everything did, with £1.50 in your purse, a London Transport travel card in your pocket and a hefty taxi bill staring you in the face?! NO!  Be warned!  Be aware!  Be prepared!

£50 phone number:  A group of girls went to a concert and were lucky enough to be at the very front of the audience.  During the concert, the artist kept making eyes at one of the girls in particular, singing to her and smiling.  It was not surprising when he eventually came over and sang a heartfelt song to her, holding her hand and looking deep into her soul.  So when the song was over and she felt something in her palm, she knew it would be something special.  She opened her hand carefully and privately to avoid the mass of other women around attacking her for her new found treasure, and what did she see?  A £50 note with his number and the words “call me” written on it!  HA!   The story was shared amongst the group and reactions were sought – would you call?  And the responses were hilarious!  Some said yes they would.  Others said they would, but only because it was a £50 note: a £5 note would not get the same love (!) and there would have to be some serious consideration if it was a £20.  It was great to hear that at least half of us would happily flip the £50 over, write our number and hand it back to the artist – good old fashioned values have not died!  And it was even better to hear that if we left the concert with the £50, call or no call, that money was getting SPENT!  Believe that!

Food

If you’re after some sumptuous nosh which looks as good as it tastes, you need to get to Tom’s Kitchen!  We started off very conservatively, ordering typical brunch fare such as Pancakes, Eggs Royale and a good old fashioned English fry up with fresh pressed juices, smoothies and coffees to accompany.  And when they came round, they did not disappoint.

As a pancake fiend (see my last post), I of course went for the blueberry pancakes.  And I definitely got a pan-CAKE!  When it came out, I wasn’t sure if I’d received the right order, but on slicing it, it all made sense.  Tom’s Kitchen take the pancake to the next level, serving a thick and sweet fried cake infused with succulent blueberries and dusted with icing sugar to finish.  It looked mad and tasted even crazier.  It reminded me of a tortilla española – Spanish omelette, but was a sweet, fruity version.  The accompanying maple syrup ensured the pancake was moist but not sickly and though it took a wee while to finish, I ate it all up!  Also selected were the Eggs Royale, Eggs Benedict and a hearty portion of Brioche French Toast, all of which were good, although the French Toast could have done with an accompanying sauce, perhaps the maple syrup.

Given the food envy we soon started to experience, we went for a second round of lunch fare and between us ordered a mixed leaf salad with house dressing, macaroni cheese and the steak and ale pie of the day.  Each meal was well prepared, and although the pie contained minced meat instead of meat chunks, we enjoyed our orders.  From the mouth watering vinaigrette which accompanied the salad, to the pastry atop the pie, the second round of food was consumed with content.  Our only criticism lies with the pie, and as Gabby said, “the pie could have been better.  Even Jay Rayner (food critic) agrees!”

Service

Although it started off a little shaky, probably because we arrived a little late *ahem*, service at Tom’s Kitchen was what you’d expect at a Chelsea brasserie.  We were lucky enough to be served by a sprightly, young man named Tosin (such a sweetheart) who was extremely attentive and went out of his way to ensure we enjoyed our time there.  From advising us that the Brunch menu would be ending soon, to automatically ordering extra dishes as the additional Ladies who were running late arrived, bringing out extra tableware as requested (and we made many requests), to making honest, unbiased recommendations, he played the part of a true gentleman-cum-waiter.  If I’m honest, I think he was really happy to see a group of sisters at this Chelsea hole-in-the-wall and went the extra mile to render a Chelsea-graded service.  Not to say that he wouldn’t have done so otherwise; Tosins are the most kind natured, amazing people you will ever meet! 🙂

Overall

If I had to give Tom’s Kitchen a score out of 10, it would be an 8.  The booking system was simple and efficient, the food was yummy, the service was top notch and they accommodated our raucous and loud conversations without complaint.  Although it’s not on a main road, it is very easy to find and its location in a quaint understated residential area adds to its private and exclusive charm.  It’s dressed like an English brasserie: large wooden, rustic tables and chairs, pictures on the wall, and an open kitchen so you can catch a glimpse of the chefs preparing your meals.  It’s not pretentious in nature, ensuring you feel comfortable in your jeans and boots, the moment you walk inside.  The venue is family friendly and in the hours we spent there, several parents, grandparents, children and couples came, ate and went.  I would highly recommend it as an alternative to your Saturday hangover recovery joints or as a Sunday Brunch spot with a twist.  Tom we would love to return to your Kitchen!

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The Mrs Club! …and Wedding Cake

1 Jan

Firstly I’d like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!  Welcome to 2012!

Wedding fever is well and truly on the way to achieving world domination!

This post is inspired by one of our very own Ladies Wot Brunch, who recently got engaged.  It’s funny because we have conversations about proposals, engagement parties, wedding days and the success behind marriage, swapping  knowledge and war stories.  So when she announced she got engaged it was absolutely amazing!  Not only was everything we’d spoken about actually happening for her, we’d all be there each step of the way to support and of course pick up handy tips!

I won’t give the game away as she’ll probably blog about it herself later (details to follow), but the proposal was absolutely stunning – romantic and personal to them.  Awww!

What struck me about this recently engaged couple, was not the amount of love and respect between them (of which there is PLENTY!  You merely need to see the HUGE smile on her face whenever she talks about him) or even the fabulous wedding they’re bound to have (I can’t wait!).  The thing which I thought was pretty spectacular about the engagement was the beaming-bride-to-be’s acute level of organisation.  As you’d expect, the proposal took place during the evening, which was then followed by several phone calls, text and instant messages to share the good news with family and close friends. Given the fact that she was travelling the following day and would not have time to recount the story to her wider group of friends and well-wishers, the bride-to-be…. typed out the engagement story!  And emailed it to those who asked for the scoop.  How organised is that?!?!  Amazing!

She has of course promised us a verbatim account of what happened, which will no doubt be the topic of conversation at our upcoming meeting.

Congratulations DJ and DA! Mwah!!!

Talking of weddings, each month, I welcome news of newly engaged couples, scream down the phone with girlfriends and start planning what I’m going to wear.  And as crazy as it sounds, a few days to the event, I always cast a thought towards the wedding cake – will it be traditional fruit, or avant garde marble cake?  Will it be fresh and moist or will the couple and bakery have concluded to cut corners, lower costs and make the cake a few days in advance ensuring it tastes dry and sticks to the roof of my mouth?  Am I going to be able to eat this cake like a lady, or will it crumble to pieces as soon as I pick it up?  Will it be butter cream or icing sugar *retches*?  My brain works in weird and wonderful ways!

You see, I am a cake fiend.  I love the stuff.  I have cake at least once a week and wedding cakes will generally tip the balance on my overall verdict.

I recently watched an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride, a show in which the groom has to put together a wedding on a £12,000 budget in two weeks and on this occasion, the groom went for an Extra Terrestrial Space Age theme (?!#*?!).  Each to their own and I guess it’s good for men to express themselves and leave their stamp on a day which is traditionally organised by women.  HOWEVER, in line with the space age theme, the groom chose… a space ship wedding cake!!!  Mess with my cake and you mess with me!  I dread to think about the amount of colours and preservatives used to bring that multi-coloured mass of cake mix to life!  Blueeergh!

Image courtesy of BBC Three

No doubt I’m set to see some amazing looking, delicious tasting cakes this year.  What kind of wedding cake will you go for?

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