Woot!

Sep. 30th, 2014 12:49 pm
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I've just agreed with my head of department that I can work from home one day a week. The commute (90 minutes each way) is really the only downside to my current contract, so hoorah for sensible managers :)
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
...on the subject of preferences regarding fellatio.

I'm most interested in the views of those who both give and receive blowjobs, but don't let it stop you answering if you're not one of those people.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
And in the spirit of posting more quick things, today's Captain Awkward was particularly good, I thought. (Content note for discussion of severe depression and attempted suicide.) The suggestion of looking for ways to spend time looking after a depressed person without making it about the depression especially.
wildeabandon: man with briefcase (career)
So I've got myself an Ello account - same username as this. I've also got some invites if anyone wants one. Like many, I'm a little sceptical that it'll actually take off and lure people away from facebook, but we'll see. It has been pointed out by a few people that Dreamwidth actually has quite a lot of the benefits over facebook that Ello claims (no adds, no selling your data), as well as rather more features, and there's been various lamenting over the fact that hardly anyone still posts here/on livejournal, and I'm as guilty of that as the next person, so I might start making an effort to post a bit more.

I think part of what puts me off is that on here I feel the need to craft posts carefully, and say deep and meaningful things, but actually, just posting some life updates wouldn't go amiss. Something I've become very much aware of over the last few years is how infrequently I see the people I don't live with compared to when I lived in Cambridge, or even shortly after I moved to London, when I was going out a lot more. I've realised that just like my mother I don't tend to enjoy large gatherings of people, especially if I'm not hosting, so parties aren't really a thing I do anymore. Even my closest friends I only manage to see once every month or two if they live in London, and less if they're further away. It is, I think, a very different sort of closeness, built on years and trust rather than the passionate intensity of my youth (oh dear lord I sound ancient). But yes, that does seem to mean that I don't have nearly as much sense of what's going on in other people's day to day lives, nor share nearly as much of my own.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
We like this place. They have a no booking policy, which meant we had to go to a mediocre cocktail bar whilst waiting for a table to become free, but whilst the cocktails were fine, the company was superlative, so I recommend you all go there with someone as fabulous as [livejournal.com profile] borusa

Once we got our table they quickly brought us some very nice bread, and there was oil on the table, so that worked quite well. We both had fish starters - Robert had the squid and chorizo, and I had the clams with chilli and vermicelli. Mine was very good, but Robert's was excellent. We paired them with a Riesling which was perhaps a little too spicy for either dish, but was pleasant enough.

For our main course we shared the duck with, oh, all the things. There were potatoes and beatroot and leaves and all the other things. The thing that stood out most was the the banana shallots, which it took a while to figure out what they were, but they were really really good even without knowing what they were. The breast meat was very good - it had taken on lots and lots of herbal flavours, and was cooked juuuust right. I felt that the leg meat on the duck could have been a bit more interesting in both taste and texture., and that a jus on the side would have pushed this course from very good indeed to outstanding.

For pudding Robert had a cheesecake which he didn't give me a taste of, and I had a chocolate beetroot cake which was really very good indeed (and he had one more taste of my cake than he cares to admit. So there.)

Three courses, a bottle and a half of wine, and service came in at about £125 for two. I'm fairly sure we'll be going back.
wildeabandon: sushi (sushi)
We started with a drink at Purl, one of the forerunners in the trend for speakeasy style cocktail bars in London. The atmosphere was great, and I enjoyed the two-seater swing chair that we had instead of a table, but the drinks, whilst imaginative in style, weren't nearly as well balanced as some that I've enjoyed elsewhere. The honey smoke in my Mr Hyde's Fixer Upper (their signature drink) was a delicious and interesting touch, but the Zapaca rum that formed the base was somewhat overpowered, and would be better replaced with something darker, with more molasses.

But on to the meal... Dinings is a Japanese tapas restaurant. Yeah, it sounded a bit odd to me too, but I love Japanese food, and I love trying unusual combinations, so it seemed well worth a try. It was.

Many different dishes, and a greatly contrasting range of flavours and textures. The tar-tar chips are a fun little amuse bouche - that was my first time trying wagyu beef, and oh my word the intensity of the meaty oomph was something else. The seabass carpaccio was explosively good - crunch of salsa against melt-in-the-mouth fish against chewiness of the shaved truffle, sharp sharp tang of ponzu against rich umamish earthiness (truffle again) in the dressing. This was one of those dishes that made me almost whimper with pleasure. Wagyu beef char-sui buns, which unlike most char-sui buns actually had the right ratio of meat to bun, and the latter was far more flavoursome and interestingly textured than the cotton wool you usually encounter. There's this wonderful moment biting into it when the juices from the meat begin to escape onto your tongue; a glorious teaser for the pleasure to follow. There was more, and all of it delicious, but those were the real highlights.

The service was friendly and knowledgeable, but there were a couple of times when we were left waiting for one thing or another for a bit longer than would be ideal (though this was acknowledged and apologised for, so I suspect they were just slightly understaffed).

It wasn't cheap, coming in at a shade under £150/head, and unlike a lot of the meals I write about, a much greater proportion of that was on the food than on the drinks.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I'm just in from a rather fabulous meal with [livejournal.com profile] robert_jones at Dinner, Heston Blumenthal's restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge. The menu is a bit more down-to-earth than the Fat Duck, with only one option involving liquid nitrogen, and no scented sprays, gelees, or sound-effects at all. Unsurprisingly though, that still leaves quite a lot of scope for poncyness. The conceit of the restaurant is that all the dishes are based on or inspired by traditional English food, from about the 13th-19th century, although they were clearly rather more developed from the original recipes than some of the things I cooked for the Bardcamp Elizabethan Feast.

We started with a glass of fizz - I had the house champagne, which was rich and buttery, and Robert had the sommelier's recommendation, which was much crisper and sharper, and as would pleasingly persist throughout the night, both of us slightly preferred our own choices. Sadly they don't publish the wine lists online, but I'm hoping that Robert will appear in the comments with a better memory of the details of these and later wines.

For starters I had bone marrow with snails and a pickled vegetable salad, with a glass of Meursault. It was delicious and garlicky and warming, with a lovely sharp spicy contrast from the salad. The only flaw, if such it can be called, was that I would have liked another mouthful or three. The wine was a fantastic match to the marrow, and whilst it was less so against the salad, it would have been very difficult to find something to go well with both. Robert went for one of the few dishes that didn't tempt me - octopus in a smoked sea broth, which he paired with a Vouvray. As it turns out though, when it's done just right, octopus doesn't have that rubbery texture that I dislike, and I could have very happily polished off a whole plate of it myself. The broth was particularly fine, intense and savoury and fishy.

For main courses I had duck with confit fennel and 'umbles, and Robert had spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes, and to drink we had a pinot noir from Burgundy. As we were ordering they checked that we were both happy for these to be served quite pink. We were of course, but it's a good job we both really were, as by "quite pink" they meant "dripping and bloody". The meat for both courses was surprisingly similar - they met about in the middle of how gamey I usually expect duck and pigeon to be. And they were really really good. In contrast to the starters, the portions here were really rather generous (I think I may just be too used to tasting menus, so the extent of the difference in size between the two courses was rather greater than expected). Also worthy of note was the mashed potato, which was super-smooth, rich, and buttery, with just the slightest hint of caramel.

Puddings were brown bread ice-cream with salted butter caramel, and a glass of Madeira for Robert, and goat's milk cheesecake with smoked candied walnuts and poached pear, and a glass of sweet Riesling for me. Robert's was perfectly balanced - lots and lots of flavours that just worked together. Mine was a bit more unusual, with a lot of savoury notes coming from the smoked walnuts and the goat's cheese. It might not be for everyone, but I really love puddings which are barely puddings at all.

An excellent meal throughout, without a single duff note in the food, and a lot of really sparkling ones. The wine was also superb, especially the red with the main course. The service was generally good, although perhaps a little over chatty. If we could average out the attentiveness between here and the Pollen Street Social, where we ate a few weeks ago then I think it would be just perfect.

The bill came in at a slightly eye-watering £335/head including service, but about three-quarters of that was wine, and they have plenty of far more reasonably priced bottles.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I know, I completely fell over on Ginvent, sorry. I drank quite a few without taking notes, although I still have the last three left, so they may get reviews eventually.

Right now though, I have another thing to write about. We're coming up to the end of our current year's tenancy in this house, and [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers is thinking of getting a place by himself (just because living by oneself is a good thing to do at some point, not because he hates us [or so he says!?!]), and a five bedroom house between three of us is probably a bit excessive (and a bit expensive). So unless we can find a suitable housemate (and we'd be quite picky with people we already knew, and very very picky with people we didn't), we'll be moving soon.

And we're looking quite seriously at the buying-instead-of-renting option, which is, as the entry title indicates, a bit scary. Also a bit exciting. We're still looking into the options as to whether we could finance buying the sort of place we'd want to live in, but it's looking distinctly possible, and we should find out more in the next week or so after talks with mortgage advisers and the various banks of mum and dad have happened.

So, any advice for first time buyers? General or specific to London is good.

Our main requirements are:
  • Good for commuting for Robert and Ramesh, which is ideally the Central or Northern Lines, although Piccadilly would be plausible (I'm likely to be contracting for the forseeable, so my commute will vary, and I'll just have to live with it if it sucks

  • At least three double bedrooms

  • A decent sized kitchen - we like entertaining, and have all the kitchen gadgets, so this is non-negotiable

  • Either two reception rooms, or one which is big enough to have both a dining room and a drawing room space

  • A bathroom with a good shower, and a separate loo

  • Enough space for quite a lot of wine and books

Other things we would like if possible

Any thoughts you have about how achievable our requirements are (our budget is likely to be in the region of £400k, maybe a bit more), where we should be looking, whether or not taking advantage of the help-to-buy scheme would be a good idea, or indeed morally tolerable, anything else we ought to be thinking about would be of interest.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Gin 13 is Dodd's Gin, the London Distillery Company. It's quite gentle on the nose, with something reminiscent of royal icing from a packet. Pour over ice it gets a bit more herbal, with basil and maybe a hint of parsley coming through. You pick these up on the palate as well, but it's quite harsh to sip, perhaps unsurprisingly at 49.9 abv. The tonic takes that edge off, but it also loses some of its herbiness. I think I'd like to try this shaken with some muddled basil, white sugar, and lemon juice.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, that plan to get caught up and stay caught up didn't quite work. I've had a rotten cold for the last month, which I'm only just getting over now, hence a rather lower than usual appetite for booze.

Gin number eleven is Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Old Tom Gin, and rather remarkable it is too. It pours almost syrup-like over the ice, with a nose of winter spices, dominated by nutmeg. It is /very/ sweet to sip, even for an Old Tom and very spicy - honestly more like Benedictine than a gin. I use much less tonic with this one, and even then it seems a bit of a waste, as it loses a fair amount of its distinctiveness. Probably one to keep for sipping.

Gin twelve is Spirit of Hven, Organic Gin, and has a very peculiar nose indeed. There's something very green about it, almost dill-like, but to sip it's quite floral - maybe geranium. It's utterly lovely with tonic, very summery - probably one I'd garnish with cucumber rather than lime. This is probably my favourite G&T so far.

I'm about to head out for an evening of board games, so that's it for now, but I may add one or two more when I get in, as I endeavour to get at least nearly caught up again.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Yesterday's gin was Langley's No.8 London Dry Gin. On the nose it was pretty heavy with juniper, and after a while I got a note of parsley. To sip it was a bit soapy, and not entirely pleasant, but the tonic filed off the rough edges, and let more of the herbal notes come through. Unlike yesterday, this is definitely not a martini gin. According to the website this is a gin "aimed at the sophisticated male gin drinker". No, I have no idea how gin can be gendered...

Interlude - well, that was fun. Shortly before I started writing this post the shared drive at work had fallen over, which was extremely infuriating, as IT had all gone home for the evening, and I have a really major deadline at noon tomorrow. So once the colleague I was working with had agreed that without the network only one of us could usefully be productive at once, so it would be best if I went home, got a very early night, and started again at six in the morning, by which time we hoped that someone with access to reboot the server would have been contacted and done so. Except actually, it got rebooted just after I got home, got into my pyjamas, and was about to go to bed. And said colleague helpfully 'phoned me, so I could come back in.

As it turned out, I was eventually quite glad he did, as I got a second wind and a lot of work done, but still, I am looking forward to a rest - 15 hours I did today, and nearly 80 over the last eight days.

Anyway, enough whinging, on with the gin. Number nine is Sloane's Dry Gin. It's not terribly exciting on the nose. The alcohol seems to dominate quite harshly, although there's a bit of a petrol note. That comes through on sipping as well, along with a hint of lime. Adding tonic removes the harshness, but also overpowers any interesting flavours - not one I'd try again, I don't think.

And at least the extra hours in the office meant that I get bonus gin, since it was just gone midnight by the time I got home. Gin ten is Colonel Fox's London Dry Gin. It smells a lot more interesting than the last, aniseed dominant, with hits of ginger and molasses. It's surprisingly sweet on the palate, especially considering it's described as dry. I think it'd make a really good Gin Alexander, or any number of dessert cocktails.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I know, it's actually day eight, but I ate some dodgy mussels for dinner yesterday, and after TMI I didn't really feel like drink. I did open the window for yesterday, and was quite disappointed to to be able to try the Sacred gin straight away, as I've heard good things about it. It definitely lived up to its reputation. Lavender and something berryish on the nose, and orange peel on the palate. It's still lovely with tonic in, but I think this is probably mostly a gin for martinis, to get the best of the flavour.

I've only just got back from work, and want to be in very early tomorrow, so I'll save day eight for tomorrow. I'm sure at some point I'll get properly caught up and not fall behind again - work should be considerably less hectic after Tuesday, so with luck that'll be my chance.

Ginvent

Dec. 6th, 2013 08:03 pm
wildeabandon: picture of me mixing a cocktail (cocktails)
I was asked to blog my advent calendar, so here goes.

I'm starting a bit late, because no-one told me about ginvent calendars until Wednesday, and it arrived just after I left work yesterday, so I missed an extra day. I'll start with today's gin, and then work backwards until I start to sing the little song about a goblin.

I shall pour each gin over ice, and have a sip neat, (possibly more if it turns out to be a good sipping gin!), then add 2/3 can of Schweppes tonic to the rest. From tomorrow I might also add a wedge of lime if I think the gin will benefit from it, but I don't have any in the flat tonight.

6th December is Origin, Arezzo, Italy. I couldn't smell anything but juniper, although there was quite a lot of aniseed on the palate. That became a lot less dominant once the tonic was added, but it's probably still not a gin I'd recommend to [livejournal.com profile] robert_jones. It was only after tasting it that I realised that it didn't have any botanicals other than juniper, so that would be why it didn't smell of any.

5th of December is Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin. It's a lot more interesting on the nose than the Origin, quite spicy. To sip the dominant flavours are orange and cinnamon and clove - this is about a Christmassy a gin as I can imagine. With tonic the orange becomes less noticeable, but the spices are still loud and clear. I think this would make a wonderful Ramos Gin Fizz.

4th of December is Hayman's Old Tom, which is the first so far that I'd heard of, although whilst I've tried a few other Hayman's offerings, this one is new to my lips. The nose is somewhere between the last two in subtlety. Juniper is the only scent I can identify, but I can definitely tell that other are there, if not what they are. To sit it's a bit herbal, and quite sweet, but not enough to be noticeable with tonic. It's not especially exciting, but perfectly pleasant.

3rd of December is, rather appropriately No.3 Gin, by Berry Bros & Rudd. I'm inclined to think they should stick to wine, which they do ever so well. There's nothing wrong with the gin - there's a bit of citrus, and plenty of juniper - but it's not terribly exciting

2nd of December is Darnley's View Gin. It didn't smell particularly interesting, although I did wonder if that's because I'm getting a bit too close to goblin songs, especially as I had a glass of wine between these two, whilst I waited for the 2nd tray of ice to finish freezing. To sip though it's a lot more interesting - vanilla and angelica were the dominant flavours, and they stand up nicely to the tonic.

1st of December (haha, I made it, and there has been no singing at all) is Gin Mare. This is the first one that I've actually drunk before, although I didn't have a particularly clear memory of it. It's quite fruity, but more citrus peel than the fruit itself - it doesn't have much sharpness. There's also quite a strong floral note, and something a bit sherbety, which comes out particularly when the tonic is added.

Of today's six I liked the Warner Edwards best, but would also be very happy to drink the Darnley's view and the Mare again.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I bought a couple of tickets for this event, but will now be in Oxford. Would anyone like them? I paid £23 for them, but happy to let them go for less/free if you're skint rather than see them go to waste.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
This'll be a quick one. My latest monthly dinner with [livejournal.com profile] borusa.

We had planned to go to Drunken Monkey last month, but we never managed to make a date work, which I can't entirely complain about, because it meant I wasn't restricted to the veggie options by my Lenten fasting.

I started with the Lavender Lady cocktail - camp? who? me? It was delightful though - gin, triple sec, lavender syrup, lemon juice, egg white - I think I'll be recreating soon. RM had a beer.

We ordered a fairly full platter of food off the bat, with particular highlights being the honey chicken, the drunken ribs, and the crab meat and pork dumplings. Our assessment was - at least half as good again as Ping Pong, at about 3/4 the price*. Certainly it was enough to order another wave of food, and the Pak Choi that turned up then was divine.

Not every dish was perfect, and there's no doubt you could get better dim sum in Chinatown at lunchtime, but for somewhere which serves in the evening it's hard to do better, and the cocktail menu is a big plus.

Enough food to leave two very good eaters feeling replete, plus two drinks each and service came in just under £75

*this was confirmed when I had lunch at Ping Pong today. It was, y'know, fine.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, not really a review as such, but notes from the Easter Feast.

I was a little worried that half a bottle of Champagne per person wouldn't be quite enough, and that we should have put some house fizz in the fridge just in case, but as it turned out, just over three bottles was about right for eight of us, leaving most of a bottle for buck's fizz the next morning. Oh, the hardship. Other notes on the pre-dinner nibbles. RJ's revision of his Christmas chicken liver canapes with duck liver were just as nice, perhaps even an improvement. Heston Blumethal's tea smoked salmon may seem a bit extravagent, but whilst being about 20% more expensive than the standard stuff, was at least twice as nice. My red onion marmalade was quite tasty as well, and the quails eggs were tasty, but an awful lot of faff to peel.

The Mackay's French onion soup was superb. I'd never have guessed it was vegetarian without being told. RJ's asparagus was impressive, given the rather half-hearted attempts at Spring we've been seeing, but the Hollandaise was a work of art. Marcus's trout was really good, but the passion fruit and cucumber salsa he served it with was right there into exquisite.

Ramesh's sorbet was ever so clever. Pea and wasabi, rolled up with seaweed into maki, with ginger in the centre. So fun and clever. And delicious. The main course was lamb boulangere, which wasn't quite as good as the last time I did it, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I can't complain too much.

Pudding was a lovely cheesecake (again from the Mackays), with the most amazing chocolate sauce. Indulgence in liquid form, oh yes. Then we had some fantastic cheeses (from [livejournal.com profile] cathedral_life and Sue), which would have been the focus of the table, if it weren't for the port.

Fonsecca 1977.

Oh yes.

We did drink some other things, which RJ will probably tell you about in the comments, and ate some fruit for dessert, of which the grapes were particularly lovely.

It was Easter as it should be, as I'm sure our Lord envisaged it. Thanks to all who made it happen. See you again next year.

Fragile

Jan. 22nd, 2013 03:27 pm
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I'm somewhat fragile at the moment. A combination of some difficult personal/emotional stuff recently, and impending uncertainty about job and house means that I am more than usually anxious, and starting to suffer (very mild) depressive symptoms. The good news is that I've caught it early and should be able to turn it around/stop it getting worse, but it's still a bit meh. If you are so inclined, somethings that might help are:

  • Saying nice things about me. Specific is good, as it's easier for the lizard-brain to believe. Right now is good, but also good would be spontaneously doing so at some point in the next 3-4 months, as it generally gives a short term boost and then goes away again.
  • Letting me know about any jobs I might be interested in - ideally project management in Higher Education, but anything that involves the intersection of technology and people is good, and I'd consider most sectors other than finance.
  • Arrange to see me for things that don't involve much drinking, being around large numbers of people, or spending lots of money. Arranging to cook and eat together, either at my place or yours, would be especially lovely. I may need to be chased slightly more than I usually would, but that's very likely to be due to the state of my head, rather than not wanting to see people.


I am basically coping, so there's no need to worry about me, but feel free to be extra nice to me for the next few months.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Dear lazyweb...

I would like to read more short stories. I'm not particularly bothered about genre. I care more about plot and characters than atmosphere, style, and clever wordplay (although I do like those things too). I'd prefer things on the shorter side - around 2-3000 words would be ideal, but up to 6000ish would be okay. Some authors I've enjoyed short stories by before are Roald Dahl, Daniel Handler, Angela Carter, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite (as was).

What else should I try?
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
As anyone who's let me talk about restaurants for more than a few seconds is likely to know, my absolute favourite is Viajante, a tasting menu only extravaganza, run by the amazing genius of food, Nuno Mendes. You enter and get whisked away on an exquisite culinary journey and stumble out several hours later with a slightly dazed grin. It's wonderful, but not exactly something one can do every day.

The Corner Room is his new venture, located in the same Bethnal Green hotel, and [livejournal.com profile] borusa and I went there last night. It's a lot more informal and low key - a short menu, maybe half a dozen each of starters and mains. Robert went for the crab to begin with, and excellent it was - light, fresh, with a delicately garlicky dressing which managed not to overpower. Excellent it may have been, but it was blown completely out of the water by my mackeral and ponzu. The combination of earthy pungency and spicy citrus sharpness was just ... unhh ...

For a main course we both had the Iberico pork with bread pudding. Somehow, he has come up with a way of cooking pork so richly that it could actually pass for steak, except for that slight hint of salt and fat that remind you that it was once a pig. Puddings were apple and hazelnut pannecotta for Robert, and watermelon for me - the latter done in about a million different ways, and definitely doing the "what? how? how can you make this thing have so many different tastes in one dish?"

At just a shade over £50/head for three courses with wine, this has to be one of the best value meals I've eaten, pretty much ever. It would be well worth it at twice the price, and it's even cheaper at lunchtimes, with a £17/£21 for 2/3 courses offer.

There was only one veggie option for each course, and in general, the shortness of the menu might make it less than ideal if you have dietary restrictions (or at least checking what will be on the menu that day), but otherwise, if you eat out once this year, make it here.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Tonight was my monthly dinner date with [livejournal.com profile] borusa. We went to Seagrass, a former pie & mash house in Islington, which now does mostly fish and game.

It's fairly unassuming - rows of smallish tables with high-backed benches. The menu is printed on A4 paper, and the choices are limited, but all sound delicious. Amuse bouche were mackeral with creme fraiche and pepper on brown bread - classic, simple, excellent. For starters we both had venison, which was superb, on the rare side of medium-rare and served on a bed of delicious lemony risotto, which makes it rather filling for a starter. For mains, Robert had duck, and the mouthful I had was very good. I went for the whole crab, which may have been a mistake, as although I very much enjoy the white meat, I'm less a fan of the more accessible brown, as well as the 20 minutes or so of feeling like you're fighting a battle of wits with your dinner and losing.

To finish we both had the cheese plate, which was a little disappointing after the excellent starter and very good mains. A nice mild lancashire with rather good chutney, but the brie and the stilton were a bit middle of the road.

All in all though, a very decent meal, at an extremely reasonable £70 for both of us. This didn't include wine, but they have a BYOB licence, and don't charge corkage, so you can set your own price there.
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