1001 Restaurants (Blowing my own Trumpet)

Pardon the interruption from the shameless self-promotion department. About a year ago, thanks entirely to the benevolent intervention of my dear friend Nicola, I was asked to be a contributing writer for a forthcoming publication, 1001 Restaurants to Experience Before You Die. It was an interesting project: given the inherently ephemeral, trend-driven nature of restaurants, was it possible to compile a book of restaurants that would still feel current in five years’ time? Ten? The editors were looking for places that were iconic. My task was to write a one-page blurb about the restaurants in a way that would evoke the dining experience and personalize it for readers. The book was intended to be not just a coffee table browse (although it certainly was that) but a bona fide guide to dining all over the world. I would be the only Seattle contributor. Continue reading

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Shrimping in the Hood Canal

Like many of the best things I have done, the decision to go shrimping was hatched around my dinner table, during an impromptu Sunday night dinner party. My friend Larry, a self-described Shed Boy (he has forsaken a traditional career to live meagerly, work less, and create things), abruptly announced—he is usually abrupt—that he and his friend Steve were going shrimping for Hood Canal spot prawns that Wednesday. Did I want to come? I had been in a bit of a funk for a while, not writing, hardly cooking, and feeling aimless. I missed London. But spot prawns are a rare treat, seldom available far from their natural habitat (they deteriorate quickly). When I tell people that I have never had seafood as exquisite anywhere as in the Pacific Northwest, spot prawns are one of the local delicacies that top the list. Continue reading

Haz – St. Paul’s

I read an article that claimed the majority of people make their decision to return to a restaurant based upon service, rather than food. As with all generalizations, one can always think of exceptions – I’ve returned to restaurants where the service has been pretty flaky; indeed, sometimes slightly inept service can even be charming. In the United States, of course, there is a tacit understanding: good service is rewarded with a good tip. Actually, having worked in the restaurant industry myself, my rule is slightly different. Always tip well, and when the service is good, tip exceptionally well.

In the UK, things are a little different. The majority of restaurants automatically tack a “discretionary service charge” onto your bill. While some restaurants in fact give this money to their servers, many do not. Instead, the house pockets the entire service charge, so it functions essentially as a 12.5% surcharge on your meal. The thing that I’ve learned to do is ask, when I get the bill, whether the servers get the service charge. If they do not, I ask for the service charge to be removed, so I can leave a cash tip. The resistance one encounters to this seemingly simple request is remarkable. On one memorable occasion, the frightened server refused to take off the service charge, on the grounds that the restaurant management would “find out” and she’d get in trouble. On another occasion, a server pointed out that the word “discretionary” did not precede “service charge” on the bill. In other words, the restaurant pocketed the service charge, and there was not a goddamn thing she, or we, could do about it.

Which brings me to Haz Restaurant St. Paul’s, in the City of London Continue reading

Foraging and Cooking with Wild Garlic

Last week a new friend of mine, Nicola (a brilliant cook and blogger in her own right), crowed on Twitter about a recent discovery: she’d found loads of wild garlic at a Secret Location. I immediately demanded to be taken to the spot. She agreed, but not before exacting a “wild garlic tax” (some of my orange-blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons). It was an easy trade. I adore wild garlic. Wild garlic, also known as ramps, wild leek, and wood leek, grows in cool damp woody areas. Its colour is strikingly chlorophyll green and it’s got a sharp allium flavour and intense aroma. It’s gorgeous stuff. Monday, the appointed day, was cool and very wet. Nicola picked me up from an Overground station, her sweet and excitable dog, Toro, in the back of the car, and drove us to the Secret Location, a lovely wooded path Somewhere In London. Continue reading

2011 – The Roundup

It’s odd to think that I only started writing this blog in August. I began blogging to stop moping and feeling sorry for myself when I didn’t make the final cut to be a contestant on Masterchef UK. (I’ll tell that whole sorry story eventually.) I also did it to prove to myself that I can be serious about food, about food writing, and to BE serious, if that makes sense.

Susan Eats London now occupies a substantial chunk of my thoughts most of the time. Continue reading

White Chicken Stock

Pardon the soapbox.

White chicken stock is, in my opinion, the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT BASIC INGREDIENT IN YOUR KITCHEN. I know white chicken stock isn’t hip. It smacks of Jewish grandmothers (in my case, Jewish mothers), 1950s casseroles, and white sauces. And people love to coo and preen about their brown chicken stock. But I think there is nothing you can get from a brown chicken stock that a veal stock can’t do better, whereas your white chicken stock unobtrusively and self-effacingly Continue reading

Cooking with Jessica

When things are looking grim, or when my fridge is empty, I ring up my lovely friends Jess and Will and invite myself over for a meal. This is surprisingly easy, and sometimes doesn’t even necessitate a call. I can wangle an invitation just by sending an innocent text message, like, “Hey! Are you around this bank holiday weekend?” Usually within 24-48 hours (sometimes less!) I find myself getting schnockered with Jess and snacking on bits of swiped fried pancetta Continue reading