Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bad service and no orange juice

Going out for dinner still holds a bit of sparkle and magic for me. Some folks see going out for dinner as a normal everyday thing to do, but even though I now go out a lot for food, I have never shaken off that thrill you get when going out for a 'treat'. Not sure if it is the hangover of student days where going out for food was getting a potatoe fritter from the chippy or what - it still seems special to me.

So it really annoys me when I go somewhere and it is disappointing. I wrote about Rick's a while back and gave it a good review. Well, consistency is everything. I took my friend Mac and I had been raving about the wonderful cocktails etc and so had built up the experience a bit.

The first issue was that on ordering drinks the waiter informed me they no longer did the espresso cocktail. Disaster. I had been licking my lips in anticipation. And really, I wish bars didn't chop and change their drinks menus so frequently - how can you develop a regular drink in a particular bar when they do that?

The second was that Mac wanted an orange juice and lemonade but - no orange juice. I mean, it is a bar and a restaurant, isn't OJ one of the key ingredients you would have? And if you don't, what about nipping to the nearest shop and getting some? Rick's is smack bang in the middle of town - it's not out in the sticks.

We got cranberry and lemonade - so no urinary tract infections for us - and got on to the business of food.

Mac had risotto - I can't remember what he said about it which to be honest implies that it wasn't great. Mac loves food as much as I do. I ordered antipasti as a main. Olives, cured meats, tomatoes, peppers and garlic mayo I was ok with (although garlic mayo is a bit strange - what about houmous or an oil/balsamic dip?) but there was only one slice of baguette bread. I expect there to be more bread when that is the only carb and is the main vehicle by which to savour the veg and meats with. Of all the things you could cut back on I wouldn't have said bread was top of the list.

The puddings did not endear us either. My mango cheescake was plain cheescake filling drizzled with a commercial mango sauce - definitely not made on the premises - and the base was soggy. I like a crunchy base to contrast with the filling. Mac had creme brulee which came in a tiny portion and while he did eat it wasn't exactly lighting his fire.

The service was also very slow and we had about three different waiters serving us. All in all, a bad experience and unfortunately for Rick's, bad tends to stick in the memory longer than good. If this had been an anniversary dinner or special occasion I woudl have been very annoyed. As it was, it marred a very good evening with Mac - who is always a delight to dine with!


I love food. I love it so much I have to go to the gym three times a week to maintain my weight. And I think that good, tasty food is not that hard. I mean, how much effort must you put in to ruin soup? Its water. stock, some veggies etc and that is it!

At my work we have a canteen run by a private firm that serves dishes such as baked potatoes with a filling of cauliflower cheese, seafood lasagne and a dish called beef en croute which is a burger wrapped in pastry like a danish. Weird. So mostly lunchtimes are a moaning session about the food. But today they pulled of a fantastic lunch. Today was 'barbeque menu' day - recently we have had theme days such as an American day that did not feature burgers and chips. I had a sausage, burger and breast of chicken (all succulent and garlicky) in a bun with salad and baked potatoe. It was soooo good. And I didn't care that I was eating a whole farmyard for lunch (I am usually a bowl of soup or a salad).

It got me thinking though about food that goes together and food that doesn't. I really don't understand sur 'n' turf but I do like a mixed grill. I think bananas in a curry is beyond strange but love a mango korma. Sometimes I think that food more than anything can express how different we all are, what an infinite variety of tastes and combinations there can be, and that what we eat is a visual and expressive way of communicating our personnalities. Mind you, I will try anything once. Except sweetmeats.

Fish to love (2)

I have discovered Monkfish - well, I discovered a few years ago but forgot how good it was an rediscovered it when my husband ordered it in Rogano's in Glasgow. So I decided to have a go myself.

Fish is low in fat and does something to your brain that makes you clever so it is a good way to eat protein and feel saintly. Monkfish is a meaty fish and is quite robust so it will stand up to strong flavours and a bit of knocking about while cooking. My own view is that it is the fish equivalent of chicken.

I have devised two recipes:

Recipe One

Make a paste with chilli, paprika and cumin - add whoelgrain mustard and a teaspoon of oil. Slather on monkfish fillets. Put monkish on tin foil and seal to make a tinfoil packet. Bake in an oven.

Make some rice and while that is cooking stir fry som peppers, mushrooms and stir fry type veggies like beansprouts and pak choi.

On a plate layer the rice, then the veggies, then place the succulent fish on top.

Recipe Two

Chop the monkfish up into 2cm wide cubes/pieces. Mix yoghurt and a curry paste of your choice (Patak's tandoori is good). Marinate the monkfish overnight or, if you are short on time, an hour or so.

Stir fry an oinion then add the marinated fish. Cook for a few minutes then add veggies as per recipe one and prepare rice or noodles. You can add the rice/noodles to teh stir fry and mix it all up and serve in bowls or serve traditional carb layer with well filled with the good stuff.

Fish to love (1)

I like fish but for some reason it seems to take a mental effort to remember that it is such a good thing to eat - despite the many admonishments to eat more of it to make your brain better from dietary advice columnists in the Sunday papers. Then I happened across shelled ready-to-eat prawns in Sainsbury's (Meadowbank, Edinburgh).

Because I live between two flats, managing a healthy diet isn't easy when you can't remember whether the salad you planned to eat on Tuesday night is in the fridge in in Dundee while you are in Edinburgh. So I need food that is quick and easy to assemble, doesn't use too many dishes (hate washing up mid week) and is healthy.

Enter the prawns.

I saw these juicy king prawns and my mouth watered. I popped them in my basket alongside one of those wonderful pre-prepared boxes of stir fry veg and a bottle of sweet thai chillie dip. Five mintes in the wok in soem hot oil, add the dip as a dressing and voila - a healthy stir fry made in one cooking receptical!!!

It may be more Delia-cheat's than Nigella but of you are in a rush and can't be bothered it is definitely better for you than a processes microwave meal. The best bit is mopping up the jiuces with a chunk of bread...mmmm...

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Good Glasgow Food experience Number Two - The Dhabba

While our Sloan's meal kept us going pretty much for the rest of the day, we were ready for our curry at the Dhabba by our 8pm booking. The Dhabba is what I would call a 'proper' indian restaurant in that the food is authentic (north indian) and not compromised in order to suit the sometime undereducated palate of the Brit on the lookout for a carb loaded meal to cushion the night's onslaught of beer.

I had teh Murg Malai Tikka with a Kadai sauce which was so tasty that even though I was full two thirds in I kept eating just to savour the tastebud reaction to chiken marinated in elachi, javitri,ground green chillies folded in a paste of grated Paneer and cream and then Tandoori roasted. Andy had the lamb Dhania Gosht - I am not that into lamb but this was excellent. The lamb was extremely tender and full of flavour. The coriander was perfect with it and not too overpowering. Yum.

We weren't in the mood for alcohol and opted instead for the Mango Lasse which was a great accompaniement. Would definitely recommend the Dhabba to anyone who wants a real north indian cooking experience.

Good Glasgow Food experience Number One - Sloan's

The day before my graduation Andy and I had the day off so we came through to Glasgow to spend a day browing the delights of Glasgow's shopping.

After an hour or so hitting the shops we were hungry for a spot of lunch and I took Andy to Sloan's in the Argyll Arcade. I had been before with my sisters and Mum - we had the soup and sandwich was very tasty and a good deal on the purse. Sloan's claims to be Glasgow's oldest pub and inside it feels like a proper pub - it doesn't feel like a chain pub, or a gastro pub, and it has a good mix of clientele - a couple of blokes at the bar, Glasgow ladies lunching, a couple of families and a couple of tables of couples. There was music on but it was thankfully at an appropriate sound level.

The menu is pretty good and caters for a variety of tastes but we wanted good old pub grub and plumped for the house burger and chips. It isn't easy to find a good burger and chips these days - a lot of pubs seem to have lost the art and serve up greasy luke warm beef patties. But Sloan's had it right and included gherkins and relish in your bun as well as a proper side salad - one you wanted to actually eat. They also did ginger and lime which to my mind is the mark of a good establishment!

The meal kept us going through an afternoon of energetic window shopping and through to our meal later that night. Definitely one to add to the list of good places to go.

Graduation Lunch

I graduated (MBA) on Saturday 24 May at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. While it was great to finally get that certificate the main point about the graduation was an excuse to get the family together and enjoy a cracking meal. I had heard about but never been to Rogano so I booked a table for lunchtime. There were nine of us, including my wee brother Theo who is 12 who was very impressed with the offer of vanilla and chocolate ice cream for his pudding.

The restaurant is fitted out as a replica of the restaurant on the Queen Mary Cunard liner and has a fantastic 1930's ambience. The bar serves oysters and in the afternoon you can have afternoon tea. We had the lunch menu - you can have two courses for £17.50 or three for £22.50 plus tea/coffee. A pretty good deal for a restaurant with Rogano's reputation. I had a duck pate starter that I shared with Theo as he wanted to try duck for the first time but was worried about ordering something and then not liking it. When I explained I wanted to share the starter the staff were great - I find a good test of customer service is how staff treat any kids in the party and also requests to share a dish/have a small portion. The duck was excellent and Theo enjoyed it.

I had pasta with cauliflower in a cheese sauce for my main and the pasta was cooked just right. Others had the pork and apricot stuffed chicken breast which was described in superlatives and a couple of the boys had the monkfish which I aim to reporoduce at home tonight. It was seared in paprika and other spices and served with baby new potatoes.

For pudding I had a lovely summer berry crumble that was sweet but still held a bite to it and the crumble had just the right amount of crunch to starting-to-soak-up-the-juices texture I like.

The service was impeccable - a further clue to a good restaurant is a) if they provide plenty of bread baskets and b) the ability of waiting staff to appear just as you start thinking you need a refill. On both counts the staff were great. You didn't feel rushed or pestered but when you needed them there was someone at your elbow. Perfect.

I would give them a 9/10!