Arcimboldo’s Summer

Arcimboldo’s Summer
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was the master of these pre-surrealist paintings of figures formed of grouped objects (not always food).

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Genesis Crafty Pancakes

As so often happens, a special offer at Waitrose tempted me to check out a novel food item. This week, "Genesis Crafty Pancakes". These comes in a pack of four and are small to medium sized pancakes — you could hold them in one hand.

The flavours I selected were Blueberry and (Belgian) Chocolate Chip. You're supposed to warm them/toast them under a grill, but in my house that was never going to happen. Straight into the toaster with them — their small size making them ideal for this.

I started with the blueberry ones. Warm from the toaster I then treated them just as I would home made — spread them with coconut oil instead of butter (great, you should try it) and sprinkled them with brown sugar. The texture and flavour of the pancakes was generally excellent — indistinguishable from home made, really.

Where they fell down was on the blueberries. Because of the thinness of the pancakes I suppose whole blueberries were never a possibility, but what blueberry fragments were present were few and far between. Just occasional little brownish splotches. Disappointing, although there was some blueberry flavour throughout the pancake.

The chocolate chip ones on the other hand were jam packed with those chocolate chips (careful they don't melt in your toaster!).

I prefer the blueberry pancakes in principle, but if chocolate is your thing these will go down a treat. They're too rich to need butter (or coconut oil) spread on them. Although I do have a devilish little notion to try them with peanut butter...

(Image credits: I got both the blueberry and chocolate pack shots from Waitrose.)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Burgers: Five Guys

I try to avoid writing disparaging commentary about restaurants, so when I had a disappointing experience in Miami a few months ago — I fancied a burger, a friend recommended a chain with a high reputation, I went there and was decidedly unimpressed — I decided to just let it go. 

But now I've discovered that this US burger chain is opening up in London. So I can no longer remain silent.

The chain is called Five Guys and they've just opened a branch in Covent Garden. I paid them a visit — the place was bustling, busy and obviously already a considerable success — and asked the pleasant and helpful staff there about their cooking policy, which it turns out is the same as in the States. So I can confidently assure you the end result will be the same as I experienced in Miami. And it was not good.

There are many things to commend Five Guys. The restaurants are inviting, nice design, friendly service, the chips are tasty, the toppings are free... but my praise ends there. The burgers are not, in my humble and purely personal opinion, worth eating.

Because they insist on cooking them well done. The customer doesn't get any other options. It's well done or no burger. And the result? 

A tasteless, colourless, overcooked slab of dry meat at the centre of your bun. You have to stuff the damn thing with those free toppings in a desperate attempt to get some moisture into your meal. But it's no use...

Why boast of your "certified stamped prime fresh beef" if you're just going to cremate the stuff? I know some people prefer their burgers well done, and some go even further, way beyond the Five Guys burger, and devour it burnt (but isn't burnt food a potential health risk?) However, many other people don't want a cremation-burger. Give us rare, medium rare, or medium...

It's also true that in some places, burger joints have to cook their meat well done by law. Luckily, in the UK, that isn't a nation-wide situation.

And that being the case, Five Guys doesn't stand a chance as far as my taste buds are concerned. Not when there are other burger joints like Byron or the mighty wonderful GBK out there.

Make mine medium rare, please.

(Image credit: The — admittedly delicious looking — burger & fries shot is from Battle of California's post about Five Guys versus another US burger chain. The fries pic is from a review on the blog Ink and Paper (Napkins).)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bowled Over by Bowland Cheese

There's been a recent wave of British cheeses with added fruit — and I have to say I heartily endorse them. Some are better than others, though — and I've just encountered one of the best.

Bowland is a Lancashire cheese with apples and sultanas and a coating of cinammon. It's available at Waitrose — I bought some purely on impulse and I'm very glad I did. It's excellent, and the combined flavours of the cheese, fruit and spice has a synergy which is usually lacking in these fruit cheeses.

The whole is definitely greater than the parts. Give it a try.

(Image credit: the picture of the Bowland cheese in its wrapper is from Michael Lee Fine Cheeses, a tasty little site.)