Monday, January 30, 2023

LOVE'S HOT FEVERED IRON

You know a lot of people say to me, ‘Geoff, what’s the secret of being a Cutting Edge Mixologist?’

 

         And I reply that all you have to do is take all the weird booze you have left over from Xmas, put it in an ice-filled shaker with a dash of this and a twist of that, and before you know it you’ve got yourself a Cutting Edge Cocktail.

 

Photo by Caroline Gannon


         In the above case the contents are home-made plum brandy, (not made in my home), some pineapple liqueur (Licor de Ananas), and gin, which is not strictly speaking weird or left over, then a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Angostura Bitters, shaken with ice and there you’ve got one helluva drink.  

 

Now obviously I’m not saying this is a unique or previously undrunk concoction – people can and do combine anything with anything, but the nearest extant recipe I can find for a drink like this is the Flying Dutchman as described in Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book – which is a very good book indeed, though Meehan’s version includes maraschino liqueur which I would go a long way to avoid. 




In fact there are quite a few cocktails with the name Flying Dutchman that aren’t much like Meehan’s recipe or mine. So I’m going to call mine a Flying Nicholson.  

 

I think it’s a one off because I used up all the weird leftover Xmas booze and I don’t think I’m ever likely to have those same ingredients in the house, and in any case I’ve more or less forgotten the proportions.  So as Jim Webb and Richard Harris put it, ‘I’ll never have that recipe again.’

 



Incidentally, the Electric Room in Manhattan serves, or anyway used to serve, the Richard Harris Cocktail, made withJameson’s whiskey, Ginger Snap Liqueur (which I’d never previously heard of) apple juice, lemon juice and sugar syrup.  

 


Sounds and looks all right but on balance I think I might prefer a Flying Nicholson.

Friday, January 27, 2023

THE SECRET SOUND OF THE SANDWICH



I think you know about my sandwich obsession, and there in the Book of St. John (not the biblical one) on page 259 are these words ‘creating a sandwich is like jazz, you must find your unique sound.’

 

Well this raises a lot of interesting and no doubt ironic questions.

 

I tried to imagine some of my favourite jazzers eating sandwiches: Miles Davis, John and Alice Coltrane, Derek Bailey, John Zorn.  I don’t doubt that these people ate sandwiches at some point in their lives, but they were far too cool ever to be photographed doing ir.  Eric Dolphy of course recorded ‘Out to Lunch’ but history doesn’t tell us what he ate while he was out.



Charlie Parker is definitely eating something below.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty definitely not a sandwich



 

The Book of St John reveals that ‘Fergus will always order the Egg Mayonnaise sandwich from the chalkboard bar menu and request the addition of brown shrimp or anchovy; or langouistines which he asks for on the side to shell and apply himself.’

 

Well, my access to brown shrimp and langoustines is limited but I do usually add an anchovy or two to my egg mayonnaise sandwich, as seen in the photograph at the top of this post.


Here's a picture of Fergus Henderson with a sandwich, but I believe it's got bacon in it.

 



Tuesday, January 17, 2023

BULLET IN THE HEAD

 

By Alex Raymond


I was reading, actually rereading Barry Gifford’s story ‘My Last Martini.’ in which his narrator 

says,

‘Two martinis don’t ordinarily affect me other than to provide a feeling of false elation that I treasure for the thirty minutes it lasts.  I rarely exceed my usual limit of two, however; an excess of elation, I’ve found, puts the world around me in a light so unflattering that I’ve been tempted once or twice to make an attempt to extinguish it.’

 

This is Barry Gifford:




Anyway in the story the narrator orders the fatal third martini, meets a woman, buys her what is also her third martini, and then complications ensue, though not the ones you’d expect.

 

In Lowell Edmunds book Martini, Straight Up (which is probably the best book ever written about the martini and nah, I don’t want to argue about it) he describes the paradoxes of the martin; that it’s both a solitary and a social drink, masculine and feminine, melancholy and celebratory.  Damn right.

 

Here are some pictures of people drinking martinis alone and together, in various moods.















Saturday, January 14, 2023

FAT IS FLAVA

 I know it’s only January but I think I’ve just bought the food book bargain of the year.  It’s The Book of St. John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver.  Mine for a mere £2.50 in the local charity shop.  It looks unread, possibly unopened.

 



It’s full of excellent photography by Jason Lowe who doesn’t get his name on the cover, and he is responsible for what I think is one of the sexiest food photographs I’ve ever seen.  

 


(These things are subjective, obviously)

Friday, January 13, 2023

LOVING THE BABY CHEESES


  

Well no, not babyish at all but quite small, and it’s hard to resist a good (or even a feeble) cheese pun.  On the right is Boursault, ‘Fromage Extra Cremaux:’ 


 

According to my schoolboy-level translation of the packaging, it says it has a ‘velvety crust’ with ‘fruity aromas’ and ‘slightly refined notes.’  Nothing to disagree with there.

 

The other is Village Maid Cheese, Waterloo: 

 



It came without much packaging so I had to look online.  It’s made from Guernsey cows’ milk, and the Village Maid website has this picture of our current king with the Duke of Wellington on one side, and with Anne Wigmore, the begetter of Village Maid, on the other.

 


Anne Wigmore made a cheddar-like cheese with milk from the Duke’s herd ofGuernsey cows – and named it Wellington.  Production ended when the Duke retired.  (Who knew that dukes retire?) And in due course Village Maid created Waterloo, not exactly cheddarish - washed curds, quite solid, quite sweet.

It’sa very good cheese indeed though I imagine an English cheese named Waterloo might be a tough sell in France. Wellington would surely have been even harder.

 

 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

ME AND MY MENUS




I was digging through a box in the Nicholsonian Archive last week and came across the thing above; a menu, actually more like a tabloid newspaper, from Twede’s CafĂ© in North Bend, Washington State, and as it says proudly on the front ‘Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and A “Damn Fine Cup of Coffee.’  I was there years ago but the place is still in business as far as I can tell.

 


Menu options include ‘50 Burgers A to Z,’ though the first burger is Bacon Bleu, and the last Whoa Baby (a pound of beef on an eight inch bun), so that’s actually B to W.

 

The Twede’s menu is one of the few items remaining from a stash of menu I once had.  I suppose I was always a bit half-hearted about it, as proved by the fact that I got rid of so many of them, either when moving house of when attempting to make order in my office.  Most archivists would in any case describe them as 'ephemera.'

 

Most of them I don’t miss though there was one from a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, which was a huge stack of duplicated sheets, offering essentially two separate menus, one offering food in the style of Chairman Mao, the other offering food in the style of Princess Diana.  Whatever that meant. I remember the food being perfectly good and not nearly as strange as you might have expected.  It really would be really great if I could remember the name of the restaurant.

 

I’ve been thinking about menus because I just read Rosemary Hill’s review in the London Review of Books of Menu Design in Europe: A Visual and Culinary History of Graphic Styles and Design, 1800-2000, edited by Jim Heimann.




 

Full disclosure – I’ve been edited at least once by Rosemary Hill, and there was a time when I used to go to parties chez Jim Heimann.  I seem to think I even reviewed a previous volume Menu Design in America 1850–1985  but I can’t immediately find it.




 

At first glance the new volume looks like less fun the previous one, the Americans being snappier in these matters than the Europeans.






 

In any case, the golden age of menus may well be behind us.  As Rosemary Hill writes in the review, ‘One of the more depressing aspects of the post-lockdown ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ phase was the abolition of the menu. On the dubious premise that handling them might transmit infection, menus were replaced, especially in pubs, by a QR code bathetically sellotaped to the table .. As often happens with restrictions imposed as emergency measures, it was not reversed when the emergency was over, having proved too useful to the people in charge. Pubs and restaurants struggling to get waiting staff have found it convenient to offload some of the work onto customers, who can choose and order as they will pay – contactlessly. The artistic heyday of the form, as the timespan of Menu Design in Europe suggests, was already over by the millennium, and the interesting menus have for some time been “the domain of serious collectors and institutions”,’ as Jim Heimann puts it. 


In fact there seem to be a surprising number of menu collections and archives both online and in the real world.


I recall a fabulous exhibition, all of 20 years ago, at the New York Public Library titled ‘New York Eats Out’ displaying the Buttolph Menu Collection, ‘more than 25,000 menus assembled by Miss Frank E. Buttolph between 1900 and 1924.  




I initially thought that Miss Buttolph must have been quite the bon viveuse to have visited enough restaurants to amass 25,000 menus but then reading the exhibition catalogue I discovered she actually acquired most of the menus by writing to restaurants asking for them, or sometimes by just asking at the restaurant door.  This is Miss Frank E. Buttolph:




I also enjoy the Ira Silverman Railroad Menu Collection, at Northwestern University. 

 

https://digitalcollections.library.northwestern.edu/collections/d3a8e587-cc58-4cb0-aea2-65465d42ec3e?collection-items-results=2





We all know that dining on trains is not what it was, but looking at some of items in this collection it would surely have been worth worth hopping on a train back then just for the visual splendor of the menus.  



And of course to get a reasonably priced Martini.  $1.35 and you get Amtrak almonds!!




 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

DRY JANUARY? YEAH RIGHT.


Some of us like to start the new year as we mean to go on - with a couple of martinis and some hand-crafted pork crackling.  Is all.