Day 52: Almond ‘chocolate milk’

You’d think that making a chocolaty drink with almond milk would be delicious. So for a new thing, combine the two and see what happens…

Almond? Yuck

This is going to be a short post because the drink was a disaster. I firmly believe chocolate milk should be rich, smooth and creamy. This was nothing like it. This was thin, tasted vaguely chemical and left me with a sense of regret.

Meta-post

What’s up with the barrage of posts? I fell behind in posting, which destroyed the audience and left me with a lot of work to do. I don’t really have a good excuse. The combined effects of a busy time at work, a trip to Seattle, jet lag and multiple visitors meant that I had hardly any time to write the posts. I was trying to fit in new things, you see.

Day 48: Crazy hot sauce

Over the past few years, I’ve grown ever more fond of hot sauce. Michael is also quite a fan. I decided to bring some back from Seattle. Read on to find out what happened.

Hot sauce? Hell sauce

This plan backfired slightly. I brought back two bottles to try, the first being Dave’s Gourmet Ghost Pepper, the second Iguana Radioactive. I only ended up trying the Ghost Pepper. I made the mistake of licking a bit of it, without reading the severe warnings on the back of the bottle. If I had read the warnings, I wouldn’t even have tried this particular sauce. ‘Keep away from children and pets’. ‘Do not consume if you have a heart condition’. They have got to be intended as humorous marketing, right?

Wrong. Dave’s Ghost Pepper hot sauce is hell-sauce. I was running around the house with my tongue in a glass of cold milk. It was so hot that eating something half an hour later still hurt. Yes, it felt like my tongue was on fire. The recommendation is to have a drop of it, I licked a dribble. I’m never touching that stuff again. It’s completely insane. Really, if you want to try some, let me know. If by trying some you mean you need something to assassinate your worst enemy. You know what, it probably is good for killing cockroaches.

I skipped the Iguana. I’m told it’s quite nice, but I’m not taking a chance. I’m staying away from these evil little bottles.

Day 43: The grasshopper invasion

I didn’t imagine I’d have a grasshopper themed post in this series, but life is unpredictable. While this isn’t strictly something I intended do, I am claiming it as the new thing for the day.

Grasshopper protein

Grasshopper protein

After a long day at work, there was nothing more exciting to do than go find some dinner somewhere. Now, I won’t be mentioning where this happened, as it isn’t fair on the establishment. They handled the whole incident very well, and I wouldn’t want it to reflect badly on them.

So, what happened? I was hanging out at my usual spot at the bar, and after a Space Dust (see yesterday’s post), I decided to have a bit of dinner. I ordered a steak and salad, and everything arrived after a short while and looked delicious.

Halfway through the meal, I noticed a hop, skip and jump on my plate. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a baby grasshopper. I called over the barman to point it out to him. To be honest, I was more amused than upset and was only pointing out because it was interesting. The barman, however, was mortified. He took the plate back to the kitchen to show them the little beastie.

A few minutes later he came back, apologising profusely, carrying a large piece of cake. The entire meal was free, including all drinks. They handled the whole situation very well, although I wasn’t actually that bothered. Firstly, it was something new for that day as I’d never had a meal with bugs crawling all over it served to me. Also, I felt slightly happy that the ingredients were so fresh that a grasshopper could survive.

Day 38: Beans on toast

Beans on toast? I can hear you groan already that this is very lame and unlikely to be new. As far as I can remember, though, I’ve not had beans on toast before. I’ve certainly not had ‘Five Beanz’ on toast. And I’d bet my left pinky that I’ve never had fancy five beans on toast with vegan cheese substitute.

Beans on toast

Why have beans on toast now

The honest answer is that I need something new to do for the day. And this was an easy one to pick up. Eating it reminded me of why I’d so far avoided beans, in a tomato sauce, on toast. I don’t like it.

The funny answer would be that I’m preparing for a post-Brexit Britain, where beans on toast, or beans on a baked potato, are likely to be the culinary highlights. If we’re bringing Britain back to the 70s, we should bring the food back a notch or two too.

I honestly don’t understand the appeal of this dish. I like beans, but beans in a baked bean sauce feels a crime against beans. The main objection to baked beans is the squishy overcooked nature of the beans. This incarnation manages to do the same to a wide variety of beautiful beans. It’s sacrilege. If I want my beans in a tomato sauce, I’ll make my own sauce.

Free the beans. Make beans great again.

Day 31: Rice and Peas (no peas)

Trying my hand at making rice and peas was today’s new thing. Sundays seem to be turning into cooking days, but that at least keeps me out of trouble, and the new-thing-a-day project ticking along quite nicely.

Cooking rice and peas

I have never attempted to cook Carribean style dishes before, so a bit of ingredient hunting was required. Luckily my local corner shop stocks a fairly interesting selection of products, with a wider variety than you’d guys from looking at it.

The list of required ingredients is quite simple, and as you probably know, doesn’t contain peas. It’s a combination of onions, beans, rice and coconut milk, with some fresh chilli and thyme for flavour. It’s surprisingly easy to cook, although the pot required some tender loving care as the mixture is quite sticky.

The end result was satisfying and tasted as good as the usual takeaway rice and peas we order. We ended up having the rice and peas as the whole meal, rather than as a side-dish. It was so flavoursome and hearty that it seemed to be a waste to serve it with something else.

An aside

I believe a brief apology is in order. While managing to keep up the new thing challenge, I have fallen slightly behind on finishing up the posts. I’ve been a bit busy for the past couple of days getting the house ready. Also, I’ve had to go back and edit a number of the posts. For some reason, I find it quite difficult to spot errors in my writing when I write on the phone. This means that I’ve been unable (or rather, unwilling) to write posts on the way home. Even with the help of flashy new keyboards, a lot of errors (both spelling and grammar) sneak into the content. And proofreading it on the phone doesn’t help catch it.

This post also wraps up the first month. There are a couple of things I haven’t had time to do yet, including some meta-new things, so I’m not giving up yet!

Day 29: A true italian trattoria in South London

Discovering a charming little trattoria in South London? Not really, they were even featured in the Evening Standard, after TripAdvisor crowned it as the best restaurant in London a few years ago. Trattoria Raffaele is really, really good, and you must go.

The trattoria

Trattoria Raffaele is located just across the road from the Audi dealership, near the Dolphin pub. We went there this frosty Friday evening with Michael’s dad for a long postponed dinner. We didn’t know we were going there, as he hadn’t told us the name of the restaurant. It’s a small, family-run restaurant. Michael’s dad, who is Italian, has actually been coming here for many years, well before it became famous.

Does it deserve to be famous?

In one word: yes. The food is absolutely fantastic. The starter of delicate chicken livers was delicious, and just about the size of a main course. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, I say.

For the main course, I was told that the Saltinboca alla Romana was a must-have.  That was definitely true – it’s fabulous. Juicy veal, topped with pancetta, cooked in white wine, and served with a selection of vegetables. So delicious, I could have had two servings at least.

Not being someone who enjoys sweet desserts very much, finished up with a glass of dessert wine and biscuits. Terrific food in a homey setting makes for a wonderful evening out.

Meta-musing

There’s something really quite odd about the desire my generation seems to have for authentic experiences. Especially where the authenticity of the experience is judged by an expectation derived not from personal experience, but from collective obsession. Following TripAdvisor (or Lonely Planet) recommendations to find authentic, quirky or unique experiences, means that you end up in a herd of sheep. I’m not immune to this, but I’m glad I ended up at Trattoria Raffaele by chance rather than picking it off a recommendation site. It doesn’t make the actual experience any different, although arriving by chance means I’m at least not measuring my experiences against preconceptions.

Day 22: Teal is more than a colour

Everyone knows teal is a colour. A good colour for bathrooms or potentially an accent colour for a keyboard. It turns out a teal is although a rather tasty small duck. I’d also never been the White Swan pub on Fetter Lane.

Teal at the Swan

The White Swan describes itself as a gastropub, and a quick glance at the menu confirmed it as such. In fact, the top floor is more of a restaurant than a pub, and the menu contained a fair amount of game and less common fish to choose from. The wine list was also extensive and surprisingly reasonably priced for the area of London. We ended up at the swan as every other nearby place was completely rammed, and the pub we’d intended to go smelt oddly of hydrogen sulphide.

Choosing teal made my new thing for the day quite easy. I had to look up what teal was, but I think I had decided to order it before looking it up. It’s a stark contrast with last night’s vegan feast, but also utterly delicious. It tastes like duck, but it’s lot more tender than duck usually is. I am not sure how you cook teal perfectly, but I think this was about as good as it could possibly get. Serving it with a piece of ravioli stuffed with pheasant seems a bit over the top, though.

The Wine

I won’t claim the wine as a new thing, but it was a delicious Olifantsberg pinotage from South Africa. The really fun thing is that a friend I was with introduced me to Vivino, an app to track and rate wines. What the app does well is to recognise the wine by taking a picture of the label. The flow could use a bit of work, as it requires a number of interactions to get the image taken and sent, but it works remarkably well.

So four new things really. Learning what teal is, eating it, going to a new pub and installing a new app. Good haul, I think.

 

Day 21: Kentridge and a vegan burger

Today’s new thing is seeing the William Kentridge exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, followed by a burger at the vegan burger bar Mooshies. The perfect evening to end the first snowy day I’ve seen in years.

The Kentridge Art

As you may or may not know, I grew up in South Africa. William Kentridge is a South African artist who’s name I’ve known for a very long time. I had never been to an exhibition dedicated to him, though, nor had I been to the Whitechapel gallery before today. So both tick the new thing box quite nicely.

I am not particularly well-versed in art, but I do like to think that I can appreciate things at an experiential level. This is not the time nor place to fade into a long a discussion about aesthetics, especially if you’re of the Kantian bent. From what I know about Kentridge and his work, and I stand to be corrected, I think he would accept people taking the art for what it is. For me, the collection struck a nerve, more than many things I’ve seen recently. It may be that the sounds and atmosphere echo a South Africa that lives in the sub-conscious. Almost like a shadow of the world seen from suburban Johannesburg, as it fades in my memory. If anything, as I write this, the feeling that Kentridge’s work evokes in me reminds me of the work of Ivan Vladislavic.

The work is meticulously executed in a variety of media, but always moving. Either the movement is physical or mechanical, or it is suggested by the nature of the drawing or imagery. There are a number of film installations, as well as moving installation pieces. But then, in the middle of it all, a room with colossal tapestry pieces. It’s fabulous. Go see it if you can, it’s on till the 15th of January.

Moochies

Vegan dinner? Delicious burgers? Enough said. Go visit it. Awesome staff and reasonably priced vegan junk food. Go get some.

Day 18: Iced Coffee and a popcorn snack

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and a Nature Valley popcorn snack. Not the most exciting experience for today’s new thing. I’ve never tried these, so it does count, and in my defence, I did leave the office quite late. As an added bonus my favourite zebra-themed table makes its first appearance on the blog series. This baby’s been with me ever since I had my own place way back in 2003 in Tilburg.

The good stuff

The first new thing today was the deceptively named Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. If you’re eagle-eyed you may have spotted the slight problem with the product. It is not the cheesy tagline ‘Keep Your Chin Up‘. It is rather more shocking than that: this drink is gingerbread flavoured. And not just any gingerbread, but sickly sweet, artificial, chemical gingerbread. I think it is highly likely that the gingerbread flavour is brought to you by the same people that make ‘yellow banana sweet flavour’ or ‘pink strawberry milk’ flavour. One word: yuck. I didn’t finish it. If you are the kind of person that likes Starbucks flavoured sugar syrup drinks, you’ll love it. I’m not even sure it contains any coffee.

To offset the surprising amount of sugar in the drink, I also had a Nature Valley popcorn snack, which was quite nice. Nothing epic.

If you got this far

The inspiration for today’s new thing comes from my possibly temporary boycott of Starbucks after their latest slightly shocking price increase. So far it has actually saved me quite a lot of money, not buying my daily espresso at the station.

The other quite interesting thing is that a bit of pattern seems to be developing on the “do a new thing every day” project, and I wonder if you’ve been able to spot it. Leave a comment if you have and I’ll send you a Jimmy’s Iced Coffee 🙂