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Five food highlights from 2011

January 1, 2012

I love New Year’s Day.  Aside from getting to wish you all a Happy New Year, it’s a day full of such promise and energy.  A day when you dare to dream your boldest dreams with the belief that this might, indeed, be the year that they come true.  You consider how you would like to see your life improve, and resolve to make the changes accordingly.

The sad fact of the matter is that New Year euphoria doesn’t last, but if it did, none of us would ever drink a glass of wine or eat a chocolate cake again, would we?!

Whilst considering all the fabulous things I’m going to cook this year and all the delightful restaurants I shall visit (both which totally contradict my resolutions of losing weight and saving money), I’ve also spent the past week considering what a fabulous food year 2011 has been for me.  I’ve literally cooked my way through it; spending more time in the kitchen, when I’m not at work, than any other place.  I’ve given myself some fun challenges, such as my Frugality Challange, which has helped me to half the amount we’re spending on groceries each week and drastically reduced the amount of food that was being plonked in the bin.  But I’ve also had the good fortune to visit a plethora of fabulous restaurants: Launceston Place, Paris House (3 times!), Dinner by Heston, The Gilbert Scott, and Hakkasan, to name but a few, where I have wined and dined to very high standards (though not always high enough for me…)

So, after much consideration, here are my five food highlights from 2011:

1. Best Restaurant: Viajante.  Based in the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Viajante was discovered by my friend Rachel when it was her turn to choose the destination for our next Posh Scoff Lunch Club outing.  Having heard great things about Nuno Mendes, but not really knowing anything about his food philosophy or passion, I was unaware of what treats lay in store for me and my friends upon entering this food-lovers’ heaven.  A blind tasting of six courses (but which in reality was about 12 with all the extra little dishes that kept us oohing and aahing with delight all afternoon) with matched wines was good value at £90 per head, but became outstanding value when you add faultless and friendly service and the opportunity to watch the chefs at work – including Nuno himself!  I would whole-heartedly recommend this destination to anybody and everybody.

2. Best Food I’ve Cooked: Five courses for Alison’s 50th birthday.  Despite this was 25 June 2011, I’m yet to blog what was one of my favourite dinner party menus to date.  So for now, you can have the menu…

3. My favourite cookbook I bought/received: A life in the kitchen by Michel Roux Jr.  A big fan of all things Roux, I was truly inspired by this autobiography-come-recipe book from my culinary hero that is Michel Roux Jr.

4. Best food TV: Masterchef Austrailia.  I’m addicted to this show.  If everything else ceased to exist on TV I wouldn’t care as long as I had Gary, George and the Matts to keep me company when I want to be a part of other people’s cooking dreams.  I’m gutted the third season came to a close in December…but at least it frees me up to spend more time in my own kitchen!

5. Best food product discovered in 2011: On this one, I couldn’t make an single decision, so there has to be two.  Wessex Mill’s Onion Bread Flour is the first.  Introduced to me by my neighbour Aly, this flour is just scrumptious.  I’ve got a bread maker, so with very little effort, I’m able to turn this flour into fabulous loaves and rolls.  The onion flavour is distinctive and delicious.  The second is Tracklement’s Fig Relish.  The jar suggests you try it with goats’ cheese, but I would suggest you try it with any cheese and cold meat you have to hand.  Or indeed, do as I do, and eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.  It’s a figgy delight that needs to be tried.

Do you have any food highlights from 2011 that you’d like to share?

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