Friday, October 21, 2016


I was in London, doing the kind of things you do in London, which inevitably includes a certain amount of eating and drinking.  Some Colchester oysters were consumed at Bibendum:

And a Fortnum and Mason pork pie was eaten:

This was the kind of pie that can put a man into a porcine-induced fugue state.  It’s not just the pork or the pastry or the jelly, it’s the combination, the alchemy of all three working together. Don’t try getting one through customs back to the USA, however.  Long story.

On the booze front, it seems that London has gone gin crazy.    There are gin bars and gin clubs, artisanal and bespoke gin distilleries, gin parlours, all of which sell pretty good gin, some more “crafted” than others of course, and they serve it sometimes just with tonic, but also in cocktails and sometimes even in “ginfusions.”  And hereby hangs a tale. Fact is, something gin-based happened to me in London and I may never be the same again.

I found myself in Walthamstow (yes, the Stow) in a place that calls itself Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace, a name that may raise expectations it can’t ever live up to.  You might imagine something like this (which is actually the Princess Louise in Holborn):

Or this:

When in fact Mother’s Ruin is a smallish industrial building that apparently used to be a  munitions factory that looks like this:

They specialize in fruit liqueurs, which they make themselves, damson and sloe gin, rhubarb and raspberry vodka, and so on.  But when a man’s in a gin palace he tends to want his gin pretty well unadulterated, or I do anyway, and so martinis were called for, first a basic Mother’s Dry Martini, made with Plymouth gin:

And then a Rangpur Lime Martini (and yes that is a sloe gin concoction lurking in the background):

The above martini is made with Tanqueray Rangpur gin, which according to the Tanqueray website contains “the rare Rangpur lime” which can’t be as rare as all that since it can be grown, at least in California, as a house plant, and looks like this: 

But here’s the OMG part.  I watched the martinis being made in Mother Ruin’s Gin Palace, and at first I thought the bartender was doing it all wrong.  He put room temperature gin and vermouth into an empty mixing glass, not a shaker, and only then added the ice.  And then there was the stirring, a shedload of stirring. 
And of course I’m familiar with the notion that you shouldn’t shake a martini because it bruises the gin, but I had always thought this was phooey, and that gin is perfectly robust enough not to bruise easily (or at all).  The stirring went on and on, and I assumed that when the drink arrived it’d be weak and watery, but you know IT WASN’T!!  Both my martinis had a softness and a rounded off quality to them that was very different from the aggressiveness that affects some shaken martinis. 

And you know it may have been the night, or my mood, or the good company, but hell, I suddenly thought there might be something in this stirred not shaken business.  Blimey.  Maybe I’ve been wrong all these years.  More research required obviously, but I do suspect that some gin-based Rubicon may have been crossed.  Blimey indeed.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Want to see a picture of your blogger with a large quantity of beef fat?  Well of course you do.

And sometimes the fat stands alone:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


You want to see a damn good martini?  I’ll show you a damn good Martini.  What makes a damn good Martini?  Well, many things, but a full glass is high on the list of requirements, and if the bartender fills the glass so full that it reaches above the top and forms a meniscus, then you know you’re in business.

Of course it’s not just about looks, but the one above served on a rainy night in the empty and fairly soulless bar of the Balto Tavern and Tap inside the Radisson Hotel in downtown Baltimore tasted every bit as good it looked.

This next one tasted considerably better than it looked, which was a good thing since it doesn’t look that great, and it sure isn’t very full. 

This is actually called a Belvedere Martini, drunk in the Owl Bar, also in Baltimore, which is very soulful place indeed.  The Belvedere Martini consists of “Belvedere Vodka, Dry Vermouth & Bleu Cheese Stuffed Olives.”  I’m never sure about blue cheese stuffed into a martini olive – it always sounds better than it tastes, but in this case (and maybe it was me, or maybe it was the vibe of the place) it tasted pretty great.

The Owl Bar also had on the food menu, would you believe, a “Chesapeake Poutine: Crispy fries, crab meat, white crab gravy, old bay.”

I believe that a man has a duty to order poutine whenever and wherever he can, and in any form whatsoever: I hope that crab was Maryland blue crab, the local specialty, though I can’t swear to it.   And In this case the fries were a very long way from being crispy, but hey it was poutine!

The most enjoyable meal I had in Baltimore was at a Nepalese/Indian restaurant called Lumbini.  You probably know – I’m ashamed to say I didn’t – that Lumbini is where Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born, in 623 B.C.E.
Here, in this earthly and earthy restaurant, we had goat curry on the bone with “Himalayan spices.”  That’s the bowl on the right, and it was very good.

But the one on the left was the real star - that’s Hyderabadi Lamb, Hyderabad being some 1100 miles south of Lumbini.  According to the menu Hyderabadi Lamb is “Lamb marinated overnight with yogurt and peanut sauce and cooked with delicious Himalayan spices.”  Again with the Himalayan spices.  Man, it was good; creamy, of course, intense, rich, fatty but incredibly bright and somehow uplifting.  I know that doesn’t sound quite possible.

There’s evidently a considerable Nepalese community in Baltimore, and we asked our waiter – very young and exotic looking, with a very stylish haircut – if he was from Nepal.  He was.  How long had he been in the States?
      “Two months,” he said, in a subdued way.
“Do you like it here?”
“I like some things,” he said, now sounding downright melancholy.
 “That’s OK,” I said.  “Nobody likes everything about America.” 
He nodded in agreement but he didn’t seem to find that altogether consoling.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Of course it's the record player that's really cool.

You’ve probably heard me say before that James Bond, fictional as he was, must have been the worst customer in the world when he came into the bar where you were working. He’d be there telling you how to make his drink, telling you how to do your job, being an all round clever dick.  I imagine a certain amount of spit might have gone into the shaker if he ever turned his eyes away.

Well, thanks to a book titled The Man with the Golden Typewriter, a collection of Ian Fleming’s correspondence, edited by Fergus Fleming (Ian’s nephew), it seems that Bond’s far from fictional creator wasn’t much less annoying.

Fergus has tracked down Ernest Cuneo, an American lawyer, newspaperman, author, intelligence liaison officer,a spy during World War Two, and a long time friend of Fleming.  Cuneo is quoted in the book, “Of all the maddening trivia through which I have suffered, nothing quite matched Fleming’s instructions on how his (martinis) were to be made. [He] was painfully specific about both the vermouth and the gin and explained each step to the guy who was going to mix it as if it were a delicate brain operation. Several times I impatiently asked him why the hell he didn’t go downstairs and mix it himself, but he ignored me as if he hadn’t heard and continued right on with his instructions. Equally annoyingly, he always warmly congratulated the captain when he tasted it as if he had just completed a fleet manoeuvre at flank speed.”
Oh dear. 

     According to some credible, if not cast-iron, online sources there was a time when Fleming was drinking a bottle of gin a day. His doctor convinced him to substitute bourbon.  Where do people find these doctors?

I can’t for the life of me find a photograph of Ian Fleming with a martini, unless that's one above in a wine glass (surely not): hard enough to find one of him with a drink.  Cigarettes and guns no problem whatsoever.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I was thinking of the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City, “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this ..”

I was in Beverly Hills – and I always feel like I’m an illegal immigrant when I slide over the border into Beverly Hills. Everyone there is (or at least gives the impression of being) so slick, so moneyed, so untroubled by the realities of existence, so veal-calf-ish, that I think the secret police are going to ask for my papers, find I don’t have the right ones, and then, if I’m lucky, they’ll give me 30 minutes to get out of town.

In this case I was there because I’d been to a wedding at the Beverley Hills Courthouse (congratulations Elina, congratulations Anthony) and this was the post-reception drink.  We were in Wally’s, which sounds like a modest kind of place, but this being Beverly Hills it isn’t.  You want to read their blurb?
“Creating a space that allows Wally’s to elevate its core mission of providing quality, value and service – with the inclusion of a restaurant under the same roof – has spawned a unique environment in which to enjoy both an elegant dining and a unique shopping experience.”

Well it’s not untrue.  The cheese counter in the back is hard to resist.  And as you can see, the walls are lined with bottles of wine, which seems a very reasonable design choice, though I couldn’t help thinking that once in a while somebody must grab one of those bottles and try to stick it in their bag.  Maybe there are security cameras – and I’m sure if they catch you they beat you up very discreetly, if very thoroughly.

Anyway, this cocktail is the main reason to blog about the Wally’s:
POMP IT UP - Belvedere vodka, Pamplemousse liqueur, grapefruit juice, up - $14
     Personally I’d have squirted some lemon or lime in it – but that’s me all over, never quite sour or acidic enough.

These days I also find it impossible to hear the word pamplemousse without thinking of the song, “Foux Da Fa Fa” by Flight of the Conchords, currently being used in a TV commercial for milk:

And I did wonder why the drink was pinkish – pink grapefruit I supposed, which it is, but channeled (I’m now pretty sure) through pamplemousse rose liqueur, there are quite a few of them apparently and I can't swear this is the kind they use at Wally's, but you get the idea:

And the fact is, Wally’s do serve some kick ass charcuterie and cheese plates, almost worth the risk of crossing the border:


Thursday, September 8, 2016


More sausage lore:  There’s a terrific Thai place in a mini-mall on Sunset Boulevard (the address is the ominous 6660 W Sunset Blvd) called luv2eat, where the staff is wonderfully gender fluid.

And the food is really good too.  This is Thai Isaan Sausage, which was beautifully sour and acidic, which which may have been because of fermentation, though it could easily have been lime juice: there’s sticky rice in there too.

And there’s this, 3 kinds of barbecue (that’s 2 pork, one duck) over jade noodles:

And also on the menu is something that caught my eye as “pork leg over” – which sounds pretty obscene if you’re an Englishman – though of course in fact it’s “pork leg over rice” – but a man is entitled to snicker, fluidly or not.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Well it's true, but there's no need for the potty mouth, is there?