Saturday, May 21, 2016


Only obsessing slightly over the movie High-Rise. Of course, famously we know about eating the dog and the “bottle of sparkling wine” smashing onto his balcony from above.

Above is Charlotte Melville in the movie, the dropper of the bottle, I think, played by Sienna Miller.  I guess she’s drinking a martini, though I’d have thought that was pretty unusual in London in 1975, even at swanky parties in Brutalist tower blocks.

Meanwhile, up on the top floor of the building Ann Royal, played by Keeley Hawes, the wife of the building’s architect, finds a more convincingly seventies drinking vessel.

And here is the best JG Ballard booze image I’ve ever seen.  I found it floating around on Pinterest – it says “saved by Kim Heybourne” but I don’t know if he or she devised the image.  I want one.  Now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


In general I don’t have much nostalgia for the food I ate growing up.  Mostly I think that’s because I found it pretty terrible even at the time.  Little food snob that I probably was, I knew that a steak and kidney pie in a tin wasn’t good eatin’. 

But suddenly I was hit the other day by a great yearning for Patum Peperium.  Fellow deracinated Englishman Nigel Richardson, of Austin, put something on his Facebook page about it and I got all Prousted up.
Patum Peperium calls itself a gentleman’s relish, which I think is overstating the case a bit – it’s a savory spread, butter and anchovies mostly, but there’s also rusk in there, and miscellaneous herbs and spices that add up to a “secret recipe” first devised by chap named John Osborn in 1828 when he was living in Paris.

I can’t tell you at what point in my life I discovered the stuff – I’d guess it was after I’d finished college and was living on my own in London.  I can’t say it was a life-changing discovery but it was pretty good, though in fact I hadn’t thought about it in years.

Now I had to have it, so I ordered a couple of pots of the stuff from England, and although I feared the customs folks might impound it, my order in fact arrived sooner than expected.

The first thing that seemed to have changed was the pot – it used to be porcelain, now it’s plastic – there are people on eBay trying to get a hundred and fifty fifty quid for the old pots.

There are also fancy porcelain ones that have sporting scenes and transport and characters from Dickens, but that’s seems to be trying too hard for the gift market.


I opened up the pot, was amused to see the serving suggestion that it should be used VERY SPARINGLY – who could disobey CAPITAL LETTERS?  Though the fact that it’s made on an industrial estate in Kent seems a bit less gentlemanly.

Anyway, it was good - umami coming out the wazz.  If anything it was a bit less intense than I remembered, but that may be because of my shell-shocked taste buds.  And it seem more solid too.  But no complaints at all.  And of course if you put in on buttered toast you’re having butter with your anchovy butter.

But I am left thinking that secret recipe or not, the entire contents of the pot couldn’t cost more than a few pennies: – a man with a moderately well stocked kitchen cabinet could surely make a stab at recreating it. Perhaps the real secret is in the rusk.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


You know, I don’t really think that Beyonce likes Guinness.

And actually I hope that Helen Mirren doesn’t like Budweiser, because I’d like to think she has more interesting tastes.

 And frankly I find it hard to believe that Nina Simone was much of a fan of Champale, because I find it hard to believe anybody has ever been much of a fan of Champale.

On the other hand I do believe that Jayne Mansfield liked a drink.

As did Joan Crawford.

And Debbie Harry.

However as far as I can tell (and I stand to be corrected) nobody has ever have used Jayne Mansfield, Joan Crawford or Debbie Harry to sell booze.  Which may be only to say that Jayne Mansfield, Joan Crawford and Debbie Harry have never allowed themselves to be used to sell booze.  Although in each of those cases they’ve happily shilled for something else.  Discuss.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Sometimes I worry that taking photographs of what you’re eating is an incredibly lame and naff thing to do, and there’s certainly a level of good bar or restaurant where I wouldn’t dare do it, but I’m slightly cheered by an interview with Anthony Bourdain in the Daily Beast. 

The interviewer is Noah Rothbaum who writes, “That, of course, brings up the question that puzzles many diners of the smart-phone age: to Instagram or not to Instagram? I’m expecting a monumental outburst about bad manners in restaurants, but instantaneous documentation is no longer an issue for Bourdain. ‘All I can say is, get with it, grandpa,’ he says. ‘I go out to dinner a lot with large groups of chefs and every one of the sons of bitches pulls out their phones, and we’re all taking pictures and we’re all tweeting each other at the same table and commenting on each others Instagrams of the same plate.’”

But it’s a small consolation because then I wonder whether taking photographs and writing about, and even just being interested in food and drink, is perhaps an irredeemably decadent and effete waste of time.  And I think I’m not the only one who worries about this.  All that shouty, sweary, testosterone-fueled, “bro” school of cooking and writing – everybody from Gordon Ramsey down – that’s just compensating, right?

And I certainly sometimes wonder about the essential masculinity of sipping a dry martin.  Lowell Edmunds, a classics scholar at Rutgers, in his book Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail has a chapter titled “The Martini is a man’s drink, not a woman’s drink,” – I think he’s being ironic at some level, but still  ...

 More reassuring perhaps is this picture of Anthony Bourdain and Josh Homme – the latter a man so secure in his masculinity that he can call name his band Queens of the Stone Age.

To shore up my own insecurities I made a martini in proximity to an ironic Arnold Schwarzenegger avatar – The Gnominator:

And I wondered if there was room in the world for a cocktail named the Martini-nator but I suspect that’s trying too hard, and in any case I think Arnold is and always has been, a beer drinker (although it occurs to me the in the lower picture he may be swigging some kind of protein shake).

And then I had a sandwich (see below).  Is this a measure of rampant sexuality or of profound phallic neurosis?  I don’t have to decide right now, do I?

Sunday, April 24, 2016


OK, I fear no good may come of it, but a deep fat fryer has entered my life, and my kitchen. 

Mostly it’s for fish and chips/French fries, and maybe fried chicken, and possibly battered squid, but you know, a man likes to experiment and so I’ve been making my own potato crisps/chips.   This takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and you finish up with something not quite as good as you can buy in any gas station. But at least you know they’re artisanal.

And the fact is, your local gas station is unlikely, even at a moment like this, to be selling  chips made from purple potatoes.  But here, from the Nicholson test kitchen, are some I just made.

See, even the vegetable world mourns the passing of the fuchsia-favoring funkster (as the New York Post liked to call him).  Actually I think he's eating a cracker rather than a potato chip, but it's the best pic I could find.

Saturday, April 23, 2016



So my drinking buddy and I went to happy hour at Wolf and Crane, a bar in Little Tokyo that has a convincingly Japanese feel without straining for it.  I think it has something to do with the wood.

The name, I assume, comes from Aesop’s fables – wolf gets bone stuck in throat, asks a nearby crane to help remove the bone, crane does so, then asks for a reward, wolf says,  “Be content. You have put your head inside a wolf’s mouth and taken it out again in safety; that ought to be reward enough for you.”

Something to think about as you survey the drinks list which features something called Wolf and Crane, which isn’t a cocktail as such, it’s a can of Sapporo and an unidentified (at least by me) Japanese whisky – which I always think is a pretty good way to drink both beer and whisky.

But they do real cocktails too, obviously, which are not noticeably Japanese.  The buddy started out with something called 1884 – a greyhound variant with added simple syrup.  It looked like this:

 I don’t know why it’s called the 1884, though I can think of reasons.   It was the year The Modern Bartender by O.H. Byron was published.  And the year this cocktail shaker was patented.

It was also the year of a peasants revolt in Japan – the Chichibu Incident, but I can’t swear that’s the origin of the name.  My buddy found the 1884 just fine - but he thought the glass was a bit girly.  So when he next ordered the Fiona Apple cocktail (yep, that’s what it’s called) - Mezcal, Fresh Lime Juice, Apple Spice, Bitters - he asked how it came. “In a bucket” said the bartender, which I thought was funny at the time though there might have been days when I wouldn’t have.  It came looking like this:

Anyway the drink tasted very fine – genuinely sweet and sour, citrus and apple, sharp and tangy and strong: and conceivably you might say it was the alcoholic equivalent of listening to a Fiona Apple song.  I wonder if Ms. Apple knows about it.  She’d probably like it.  We know she likes a drink and has a great sense of humor.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Having enthused about the Wurst of Lucky Peach, and having made some claims to be a sausage maker in my review, I reckoned it was probably time to make some more sausages.

As I’ve said before – there’s no mystery about sausage making.   You grind up some cheap meat, pork and turkey in this case:

You season it to taste - I generally under season rather than over season, so I went heavy on the garlic and paprika, but there's onion, cumin, black pepper and a few other things in there too:

You stuff it into a hog casing:

And voila you’re a sausage maker:

Admittedly all this is a lot easier when you have an electric meat grinder, as I now do, but I started out making sausages with a hand grinder, and it was much harder work, but arguably more satisfying for that very reason.
Two other bits of sausage lore surfaced while I was digging around.  First this vending machine that sells hotdogs.  I wish I knew more details:

 And then this startling bit of information which was in a New Yorker article about airships, though I’ve subsequently seen that the information has been circulating for a while.  The article runs: “The gas cells of many of the early zeppelins were made from so-called goldbeater’s skin: cow intestines beaten to a pulp and then stretched. It took two hundred and fifty thousand cows to make one airship. During the First World War, Germany and its allies ceased production of sausages so that there would be enough cow guts to make zeppelins from which to bomb England.”

This doesn’t seem to be a hoax, and I don’t want to contradict anyone.  On the other hand I’ve found the photograph below which I believe shows the inside of the Hindenberg, and it sure doesn’t look like cow guts.   Maybe I just don’t understand how the process of beating cow guts to a pulp turns it into a large skin.

I think it also raises the questions of why the Germans didn’t just make (or perhaps continuing making) their sausages using pig guts.