I’ve just come back from a two-week holiday in London and Paris, during which I ate until I started hallucinating, and drank more wine than I had in the last twelve months combined. It was, as you can imagine, a completely indulgent vacation of hedonistic proportions, and a blow to my wallet from which it may never recover (hence justifying my purchase of a pretty new wallet from a luxury men’s store near Portobello market). Over this and my next couple of posts, I’ll share some of the more memorable, and hopefully less well-known, restaurants I visited, starting with Bocca di Lupo, a casual pan-Italian joint in London’s theater district.
This is a spectacularly simple dish to prepare. Seriously. I spotted the original recipe,which was inspired by English toad-in-the-hole, in the September issue of Martha Stewart Living and was sold on the one pan meal idea. I imagine it would make for a fabulous breakfast after a big night out, but am way past that point of my life (actually, I might have skipped that stage entirely). It works really well as a simple workday lunch and I can totally see it as part of a weekend brunch spread served with a side salad, peas and onion jam.
Women are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying great shoes. I know I can rattle off over a dozen names of amazing designers that create gorgeous kicks, ranging from elegant ballet flats or electrifying stiletto heels. The very best designers make shoes that are a both a joy to wear and that make us gals look simply sensational. Unfortunately, for the boys, the choices are a little more limited. As the devoted girlfriend to a metrosexual hunk, I admit that I devote quite a bit of my free time sussing out cool designers that I can introduce to my sartorially-inclined beau. Being in London for a summer of leather accessories courses at the London College of Fashion meant that I recently had the delightful opportunity to meet George Glasgow, owner of cult bespoke shoemaker George Cleverley.
Sometimes, less is truly more. When I’m pressed for time but would like to be able to offer a homemade treat, I remind myself to keep things super simple. After all, a distracted mind tends to make mistakes. I’d rather be able to present a small, unembellished morsel successfully executed rather than an overambitious, spectacular flop. This shortbread recipe from Claire Clark, who was head pastry chef at The French Laundry, fits the bill perfectly.
When you think about great foodie travel experiences, there is perhaps none more quintessentially synonymous with Sydney than having breakfast at bills. For many of us, a trip to Sydney just isn’t complete without having tucked into the best scrambled eggs in the Southern hemisphere or a bite of bills’ fantastically fresh corn fritters. Bill Granger started bills back in 1993 at just 22 years old. When I was 22, I was still in university, spending my nights hanging out in dive bars and my days pompously debating political philosophy with classmates. I can’t even imagine the cojones it would take to strike out on one’s own and start a business at that age. Yet Bill did it, and has not only succeeded but become a culinary legend in the process, not just in his native Australia but worldwide.
On my most recent trip to Sydney, I did what I always do in Sydney. I had breakfast at bills. My greedy, gorgeous wife S and I inhaled some scrambled eggs, an order of corn fritters, and a plate of ricotta hotcakes. We visited the Darlinghurst branch, Bill’s first and still my favourite. As always, it was fantastic. Great fresh, simple and delicious fare, served in one of the most charming and casual dining rooms on the planet.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Bill. The interview follows.
For most guys, scones aren’t exactly the food of our childhoods. They’re things our girlfriends and sisters, mothers and especially our grandmothers, ate. There is absolutely nothing masculine about sitting down for tea and scones. Which meant that for the majority of us boys, during our childhood, it would have been up there with cooties, a trip to the dentist and a haircut. Of course, as we age we get a little wiser and at some point, hopefully a little more genteel. We’re also prone to do anything for the gals in our lives that we love (or think we love) and want to impress. Even if that means sitting through an oh-so-civilized afternoon tea when all we really want to do is hang out with the boys and make fart jokes.
Now, here’s the thing. Most of the scones I have tried throughout my life have been seriously underwhelming. And I’m willing to wager most of my male peers have had similar experiences. I mean, it’s tough enough to sit calmly in an overly romantic and all too prissy atmosphere, string quartet doing serious injustice to Vivaldi, while you sip your Darjeeling from an insanely delicate porcelain cup you’re afraid you’re going to break, all the while trying not to let your significant other have the slightest inkling that you’d rather be in a T-shirt and jeans, throwing back beers and playing video games. You’d hope at the very least that the food you’re being forced to eat — and eat properly (cut scone, spread cream, dollop jam) — wouldn’t taste like dried up cardboard. But most of the scones I’ve tasted, unfortunately, have been hockey puck hard, dry, and spectacularly unappealing.
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