Tag Archives: London

dinner with Jim Haynes

Every Sunday for the past 30 years, people have been wending their way to a converted sculpture studio in Paris to have dinner with Louisiana-born legend Jim Haynes. Over 100,000 people from all over the world have been to his home. Children have been conceived here and come back to cook feasts; artists and writers have found inspiration; models have had photoshoots taken; those without a place to stay have kipped on the sofa for a night and ended up staying for years… Everyone is welcome and Jim is fantastic at remembering names, making introductions and making sure that everyone is talking to those they haven’t met before.

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Jim really has grabbed life with both hands (plus fingers and toes): dancing with prostitutes in Venezuela, putting on hits at the Edinburgh festival, co-launching Suck, the sexual freedom newspaper, directing the Wet Dream Film Festival  in Amsterdam, hanging out with Germaine Greer in Italy and the Rolling Stones in France, to name but a few memorable moments. He also taught Media Studies and Sexual Politics at the University of Paris 8 for 30 years.

I went along last Sunday afternoon to see the preparations for this weekly feast. This time Mary Bartlett, who regularly cooks here, was in charge. And she was so calm I couldn’t believe it! With years of cooking at Jim’s, plus  previous catering experience under her belt, she makes preparing a three-course meal for 100 look easy.

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The menu that day was Indian pea soup, followed by 6-hour roast pork crusted with thyme, fennel seeds, wine, salt and pepper, not to to mention the 100 clovers of garlic – yes, 100 cloves of garlic! This was served with new potatoes and green salad.

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Dessert was strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar and sugar, served with pine nut biscuits.

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Rather surprisingly, the fridge and freezer are just normal kitchen size and the larder consists of a few shelves behind a curtain. But storage is not an issue, as most of the food is delivered by trusted local suppliers on the day of cooking. See Mary’s blog for her cooking tips and techniques. She has also co-authored a book with Antonia Hoogewerf and Catherine Monnet called Throw a great Party, inspired by evenings in Paris with Jim Haynes. Catherine was a ballet dancer from Los Angeles and set up the feasts with Jim in the seventies. Although she now lives in Shanghai, her son was there that evening carving up the pork.

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The calm before the storm: by 5pm all the food is prepared, with just the last minute heating, carving, salad-dressing and bread chopping to do. Jim and Mary sit down to ponder the evening ahead. Jim has a paper of names (including a waiting list), a highlighter and telephone at the ready, as he takes confirmation calls throughout the day. We’re all hoping for sunshine, so we can spill out onto the steps outside.

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It’s not the biggest space…

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Jim’s plan: stay at home and get paid.

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People arrived from 7.30 onwards and the meal was smoothly served buffet style. People lounged on the sofa, perched on chairs, meandered about between the food, the drinks shelf, inside and outside. The place was buzzing, but never too crowded.

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I met all sorts of people, including a lady from Chicago who used to dance the can-can at the Gaslight Club from Paris, a photographer from Palestine, an English butcher and his Italian wife who had a real passion for food and the co-founder of Salad Club, a new living-room restaurant in London that launched last night.

It was a truly inspiring evening all-round and the Rambling Restaurant launch is on Sunday 7th June! Email me at ramblingrestaurant@googlemail.com to reserve a place or for more information.

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'rambler's gone to iceland

Eating Eurovision – one continent under a groove: 25 food bloggers try to eat the cuisine of all 25 finalists in 25 hours within the confindes of the M25! This challenge was thought up by food journalist Andrew Webb and I discovered it through London Food and Drink Bloggers. When the 25 Eurovision finalists for tonight’s song contest were picked on Thursday night (just think how bad the 17 entries who don’t get to sing tonight must be…), we each lucky-dip-picked a country.

My challenge was Iceland and I had 25 hours to find out about Icelandic cuisine. This is a country with a population of about 320,000 people, so it’s no wonder it was hard to find Icelanders, let alone their food, in London. I began my Friday morning at Portobello Road, where there were rumours of Icelandic meat being sold…

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Here at Kingsland, The Edwardian Butchers (140 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2DZ, Tel: 020 7727 6067) I asked friendly butcher Hayden Field if he could help with the Icelandic quest. He was pretty surprised, as he had stopped stocking Icelandic smoked lamb four years ago. His description of it did make my mouth water though: leg of lamb, salted for two weeks and then oak-smoked. It sounds like one of the food traditions of this North Atlantic island that would be most akin to English taste buds.

Some of those dishes I’d love to try include: blueberry soup, moss/lichen soup, velvet pudding and sheep’s head jam. I’m not so sure about puffin in milk sauce – aren’t they endangered species? ‘Nuked fish’ and ‘putrified shark’ just sound wrong.  Fruit and vegetable dishes include pickled beetroot, red cabbage, stewed rhubarb and caramelized potatoes – hearty, richly coloured, heavily cooked foods. Puddings, pancakes, cakes, doughnuts and biscuits seem popular. I particularly like the sound of wedded bliss and pepper cookies. Icecook (formerly Jo’s Icelandic Recipes) is a great recipe blog.

The antipodean lady at the Icelandic embassy was as helpful as possible, but with only eight people at the Icelandic embassy, two of whom aren’t from Iceland, there doesn”t seem to be much native banqueting going on. There was some Icelandic chocolate for sale there at £1 a bar, but unfortunately it had run out. She suggested water and yoghurt (skyr) from Whole Foods on High Street Kensington. I thought she said yoga at first, which led to some confusion. She also mentioned Icelandic cod in Waitrose, but I’m not quite sure what she meant by “but that might be a bit smelly for you.” “They have to bring food with them when they come back from holiday,” she said sadly. “Lamb is a particular favourite.” She was the second person to mention Kinglsand butchers.

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I rang up Nordic Bar (25 Newman Street, London W1T 1PN, Tel: 020 7631 3174) to see if they served any suitable food or drink. Manager James Dutton had a rummage around and discovered some snacks. So I said I’d pop down later that afternoon. In the meantime, I rang The Warwick (1-3 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5LR, Tel: 020 7734 4409), which was rumoured to be the meeting place of the Icelandic Society (unfortunately I couldn’t find any details on this mysterious group). The barmaid at The Warwick didn’t know if they had any Icelandic customers and they certainly didn’t serve any food, but there was a Scandanavian party on tomorrow night – I wonder if that’s something to do with Eurovision.

I sent out Facebook and Twitter pleas for help. Predictably, the Facebook query received a supermarket response and went something like this:

– Iceland’s fish fingers are boss. They used to do something called a ‘crackpot’ which I loved but they discontinued it. True story.

– What on earth is a crackpot?!

– Its an ice cream pot…was mint ice cream with layer of choc on top you had to crack to get to the ice cream. WAS SIIIICK.

– Sounds amazing. Maybe I’ll end up making that…

– Yes I went, they eat lots of herring and cod, go to Ikea and buy their Scandinavian food, which is basicaly the same thing.

Hmmmm. On Twitter I’m now following Bjork, the Republic of Iceland and someone called LaughingPuffin. But no food tips unfortunately.

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Another bike ride away and I was down at Nordic Bar. There were plenty of  photos of Iceland on the walls…

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And a sort of glacial feel to the decor, with a veritable Aurora Borealis of cubic, colour-changing lights and animal furs on the walls. The place was empty bar a raucous hen party yelling at some poor man to get his kit off and three men perched at the bar. “It’s not usually like this…” said one of the bar staff. I’m not sure if she was referring to the screaming hens or the three besuited men who offered to take me to a Spanish strip party. Bill, aren’t you doing Spain?

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Here I am with some Icelandic snacks: snowflake-shaped crisps and popcorn-shaped popcorn. They taste much like English crisps and popcorn. James also gave me some exciting chocolate lollipops. My dad, who likes to think of himself as a viking, particularly liked the viking ship:

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Continuing on the snack theme I decided to bulk up my catch of popcorn, crisps and chocolate with a fishy snack. Iceland is known for its fish:  fresh, dried, salted, pickled, smoked,  not to mention nuked and putrified. Cod, haddock, halibut and herring seem to be the main fish eaten. Hayden the butcher talked of dried fish snacks, which are eaten with butter. Yum. I went for British honey flavoured hot smoked mackerel from Sainsbury’s, served on Scottish oatcakes. Oats are quite Icelandic – see Wedded Bliss cake.

I served this with some caraway-infused vodka, which was actually rather tasty. I put a good shake of caraway seeds into a tumbler of vodka and within about a minute the alcohol had taken on the flavour. This is an imitation of the national drink Brennivín, also known as ‘Black Death”.

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This morning I refreshed myself with some Icelandic water from Nordic Bar. It tastes remarkably like my tap water. Great novelty value, but I don’t think it’s environmentally sound…

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So, thank you Andrew for the challenge, and GOOD LUCK TONIGHT ICELAND! The music isn’t quite my cup of tea, but I think Yohanna might be a winner.

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Filed under bars & pubs, Iceland

‘rambler’s gone to iceland

Eating Eurovision – one continent under a groove: 25 food bloggers try to eat the cuisine of all 25 finalists in 25 hours within the confindes of the M25! This challenge was thought up by food journalist Andrew Webb and I discovered it through London Food and Drink Bloggers. When the 25 Eurovision finalists for tonight’s song contest were picked on Thursday night (just think how bad the 17 entries who don’t get to sing tonight must be…), we each lucky-dip-picked a country.

My challenge was Iceland and I had 25 hours to find out about Icelandic cuisine. This is a country with a population of about 320,000 people, so it’s no wonder it was hard to find Icelanders, let alone their food, in London. I began my Friday morning at Portobello Road, where there were rumours of Icelandic meat being sold…

DSC00893

Here at Kingsland, The Edwardian Butchers (140 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2DZ, Tel: 020 7727 6067) I asked friendly butcher Hayden Field if he could help with the Icelandic quest. He was pretty surprised, as he had stopped stocking Icelandic smoked lamb four years ago. His description of it did make my mouth water though: leg of lamb, salted for two weeks and then oak-smoked. It sounds like one of the food traditions of this North Atlantic island that would be most akin to English taste buds.

Some of those dishes I’d love to try include: blueberry soup, moss/lichen soup, velvet pudding and sheep’s head jam. I’m not so sure about puffin in milk sauce – aren’t they endangered species? ‘Nuked fish’ and ‘putrified shark’ just sound wrong.  Fruit and vegetable dishes include pickled beetroot, red cabbage, stewed rhubarb and caramelized potatoes – hearty, richly coloured, heavily cooked foods. Puddings, pancakes, cakes, doughnuts and biscuits seem popular. I particularly like the sound of wedded bliss and pepper cookies. Icecook (formerly Jo’s Icelandic Recipes) is a great recipe blog.

The antipodean lady at the Icelandic embassy was as helpful as possible, but with only eight people at the Icelandic embassy, two of whom aren’t from Iceland, there doesn”t seem to be much native banqueting going on. There was some Icelandic chocolate for sale there at £1 a bar, but unfortunately it had run out. She suggested water and yoghurt (skyr) from Whole Foods on High Street Kensington. I thought she said yoga at first, which led to some confusion. She also mentioned Icelandic cod in Waitrose, but I’m not quite sure what she meant by “but that might be a bit smelly for you.” “They have to bring food with them when they come back from holiday,” she said sadly. “Lamb is a particular favourite.” She was the second person to mention Kinglsand butchers.

DSC_0119

I rang up Nordic Bar (25 Newman Street, London W1T 1PN, Tel: 020 7631 3174) to see if they served any suitable food or drink. Manager James Dutton had a rummage around and discovered some snacks. So I said I’d pop down later that afternoon. In the meantime, I rang The Warwick (1-3 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5LR, Tel: 020 7734 4409), which was rumoured to be the meeting place of the Icelandic Society (unfortunately I couldn’t find any details on this mysterious group). The barmaid at The Warwick didn’t know if they had any Icelandic customers and they certainly didn’t serve any food, but there was a Scandanavian party on tomorrow night – I wonder if that’s something to do with Eurovision.

I sent out Facebook and Twitter pleas for help. Predictably, the Facebook query received a supermarket response and went something like this:

– Iceland’s fish fingers are boss. They used to do something called a ‘crackpot’ which I loved but they discontinued it. True story.

– What on earth is a crackpot?!

– Its an ice cream pot…was mint ice cream with layer of choc on top you had to crack to get to the ice cream. WAS SIIIICK.

– Sounds amazing. Maybe I’ll end up making that…

– Yes I went, they eat lots of herring and cod, go to Ikea and buy their Scandinavian food, which is basicaly the same thing.

Hmmmm. On Twitter I’m now following Bjork, the Republic of Iceland and someone called LaughingPuffin. But no food tips unfortunately.

DSC_0128

Another bike ride away and I was down at Nordic Bar. There were plenty of  photos of Iceland on the walls…

DSC_0130

And a sort of glacial feel to the decor, with a veritable Aurora Borealis of cubic, colour-changing lights and animal furs on the walls. The place was empty bar a raucous hen party yelling at some poor man to get his kit off and three men perched at the bar. “It’s not usually like this…” said one of the bar staff. I’m not sure if she was referring to the screaming hens or the three besuited men who offered to take me to a Spanish strip party. Bill, aren’t you doing Spain?

DSC_0121

Here I am with some Icelandic snacks: snowflake-shaped crisps and popcorn-shaped popcorn. They taste much like English crisps and popcorn. James also gave me some exciting chocolate lollipops. My dad, who likes to think of himself as a viking, particularly liked the viking ship:

DSC_0136

Continuing on the snack theme I decided to bulk up my catch of popcorn, crisps and chocolate with a fishy snack. Iceland is known for its fish:  fresh, dried, salted, pickled, smoked,  not to mention nuked and putrified. Cod, haddock, halibut and herring seem to be the main fish eaten. Hayden the butcher talked of dried fish snacks, which are eaten with butter. Yum. I went for British honey flavoured hot smoked mackerel from Sainsbury’s, served on Scottish oatcakes. Oats are quite Icelandic – see Wedded Bliss cake.

I served this with some caraway-infused vodka, which was actually rather tasty. I put a good shake of caraway seeds into a tumbler of vodka and within about a minute the alcohol had taken on the flavour. This is an imitation of the national drink Brennivín, also known as ‘Black Death”.

DSC_0132

DSC_0135

DSC_0127

This morning I refreshed myself with some Icelandic water from Nordic Bar. It tastes remarkably like my tap water. Great novelty value, but I don’t think it’s environmentally sound…

DSC00902

So, thank you Andrew for the challenge, and GOOD LUCK TONIGHT ICELAND! The music isn’t quite my cup of tea, but I think Yohanna might be a winner.

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Filed under bars & pubs, Iceland

The Big Lunch

Imagine a summer’s day on which millions of us, throughout the UK, sit down to have lunch together – in the middle of our streets, around our tower blocks and on every patch of common ground. The food, entertainment and decorations we will have grown, cooked or created ourselves. This will be a day to break bread with our neighbours and to put a smile on Britain’s face. It’s called The Big Lunch and this is your invitation!

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This morning in Covent Garden piazza, dozens of volunteers helped build this invitation out of 35,000 pieces of fruit and vegetable, including cauliflower, turnips, garlic bulbs, cabbage, carrots, oranges, lemons and apples. The boxes of veg were given away after these photoes were taken, so expect an awful lot of cauliflower cheese being eaten tonight across the UK.

Go to The Big Lunch website, which will go live tonight, and type in your postcode to find out about Big Lunches in your area. I will be hosting a Camden Town Big Lunch and if you would like to get involved, please do get in touch with me at abigail@yourlocallondon.com

I’m calling on local musical, theatrical, artistic, horticultural and culinary talents, to name but a few. Sharing a meal with neighbours is something rarely done in London, where many people don’t even know who their neighbours are. The Big Lunch is a brilliant excuse for introducing yourself to those people that you’ve seen on the street or in the shops for years, but never quite managed to speak to…

dsc_0119The idea was thought up by Tim Smit, co-founder and chief executive of the innovative Eden Project in Cornwall and resident of the bustling port town Fowey.

The seed for The Big Lunch was sown when Tim heard an inspiring story at a party in the Netherlands:

A man was walking along a notoriously rough street in Amsterdam and was mugged. In an effort to get revenge, the man decided to go on a hunt for his mugger, taking a video camera with him, hoping to confront him about the crime on film. He went to the house where the mugger was said to live, but found it was not the right place. Instead, he met the people that did live there and they offered to join in the search party. They ended up going from house to house, with people joining in the quest at each stage, until nearly everyone on the street knew each other through this unlikely and epic quest. This was turned into a program on Dutch community television and attracted a cult following. It got Tim thinking about how a shared aim can make it easier for neighbours to start talking to each other.

The Big Lunch is about “the symbolic power of breaking bread with your neighbours. Be brave – meeting new people is an act of will“, says Tim, “But there are good results and it makes streets safer.

For more photos and details see my Camden Town blog for YourLocal London.

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