Was feeling nostalgic so ordered Eloise and the first of the Billabong series from Kalahari.net Eloise great new anniversary edition, hardcover. Very dissapointed in the Mary Grant Bruce book as it is printed like a textbook from a company that specialises in scarce literature but obviously not in book cover design.
Hilarious book that I just recieved, non-fiction. How-to instructions on every type of situation and aspect of a womans life that you can imagine. By Camilla Morton. Not to be taken too seriously.
Synopsis The perfect cocktail of Swiss Finishing School and DIY manual blended by a girl who knows how to use a screwdriver AND keep her seams straight. From appreciating wine to understanding modern art, placing a bet to playing poker, wearing a hat to finding the mains, changing a tyre to loading an i-pod, HOW TO WALK IN HIGH HEELS helps you navigate life's challenges with style. Camilla has been ably assisted by a host of experts including Vivienne Westwood, Manolo Blahnik and Kylie, who offer tips on everything from the perfect poached egg to looking good in a photo. Funny and informative, packed with great quotes and fascinating facts this will transform your approach to everything from getting dressed to hanging wallpaper. Turn your exasperated aaaaarrrrrghs into confident ahhhhs!
Ok, so these are the lurid green most recent attempts. That is what two drops instead of one of colour will do... please see www.flickr.com/groups/cupcakestakethecake/ so that you know I'm not the only one a little obsessed!
Ok, so I'm reading "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell at the moment which may explain some of my foodie fascination, while at the same time posting pictures of recently baked and luridly decorated cupcakes on my flickr page. But the combinations found on fat duck? I'm not so sure. Liquid nitrogen doesn't sound that appetising. Or snail porridge.
Seems similar to El Bulli, or at least equally inventive, to that restuarant in Cadaques, Spain.... 'El Bulli. This seaside hideaway has become such a global phenomenon that getting a table involves reserving months in advance and probably planning your trip around whatever you get. Ferran Adrià and his partner Juli Soler will make your palate their playground with a 35-course taster's menu that began with concepts like espuma de humo (foam of smoke) and has progressed to rosewater bubbles and aire de zanahoria con coco amargo (air of carrot with bitter coconut)-no joke.' Fodors. The Worlds #1 restaurant in 2006 according to Restaurant Magazine.
The dinner I waited five years to taste (The Times)
Posted on April 25, 2005 02:53 AM Category: Food and drink By: Stephen Pollard www.stevenpollard.net
The economist Paul Ormerod has just published a fascinating book, Why Most Things Fail. His thesis is that failure is a necessary prerequisite of success. Out of failure come the building bricks of achievement. I have no idea if he has ever heard of El Bulli, a restaurant on the Costa Brava, but as I ate there last week I realised that the food in front of me was the perfect example of his thesis.
To describe El Bulli as “a restaurant” is like calling Shakespeare “a writer”. Not only does it have three Michelin stars; consistently, it is described by chefs as the greatest restaurant in the world, and its presiding genius, Ferran Adrià, as the greatest chef in the world. Joel Robuchon, the legendary French chef, has called Adrià “the best cook on the planet”.
The particular lure of El Bulli is not its stunning location in the mountains. It is not the Rolls-Royce service. And it is not the unrivalled technical skill in the cooking. All of those combine to make the El Bulli experience magical. But what makes it unique is that the food itself is unique.
El Bulli does not serve food as you and I know it. In the six winter months when El Bulli is shut, Adrià and his team decamp to Barcelona, where he has a laboratory. Those six months are spent deconstructing food to what sometimes seems like its atomic elements, and then reassembling in a very different way.
Any charlatan can offer up a bizarre menu, most gloriously satirised in Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet, in which the main character’s new restaurant, the Regret Rien, included such delights as “liver and lager”. Adrià alters perceptions but remains true to the spirit of an ingredient, a skill he shares with Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, has just been voted best in the world in the annual Top 50 published by Restaurant magazine. The point of El Bulli is to confound expectations — to push the barriers of food to its limits, and beyond. At the very least, it forces you to reassess what an ingredient is for. At best, it is revelatory. The experiment does not always work. Sometimes, in other words, it fails. But without that failure, there would be no success.
It is almost impossible to get a table at El Bulli. It is open only from April to October and has fewer than 50 covers. It opens only for dinner, and has only one sitting. El Bulli takes around 2,000 bookings a year. Last year it had more than 400,000 applications, meaning that the chances of getting a table are roughly one in 200. For the past five years I have been trying, to no avail. I say the same thing every time: I ’ll take a table for any number of people on any night. Last October I e-mailed to inquire about this year. A few weeks later I received a reply: “If you like we can make your dinner reservation on Wednesday April 13, 2005 for two people at 8.30pm under the name: Stephen Pollard.”
And so, last week, I flew with my girlfriend to Spain for dinner.
El Bulli, where Adrià began cooking in 1984 (having started out washing up in the kitchen) is near the town of Roses, a two-hour drive from Barcelona. Appropriately, the village of Cadaqués, where Dalí lived, is also near by; Adrià’s food can be equally surreal.
The meal we ate consisted of 27 courses, many no more than a spoonful, others of a normal size but decidedly not normal in their composition. There is no choice — Adrià has, after all, spent six months working on each year’s menu. It costs €155 a head. Considering that, on a supply-and-demand formula, he could charge at least double and still sell out every year, it is perhaps the greatest restaurant bargain.
After a hair-raising 15-minute drive through the mountains, along the only approach road, we arrived at El Bulli, a haven of calm in the rough mountains, with the ocean pounding against the rocks. Carved into the side of the restaurant is a large glass wall, so that the kitchen is on full view to the outside. We were offered a kitchen tour as we entered. I have seen a fair few, but never before have I encountered one so serene, and so sparklingly clean, with every chef so clearly in control of their station. So organised was the service that it was difficult to see any cooking going on.
Adrià offered us a “good evening, enjoy your meal”, and we were led to the table and handed a margarita. The “glass” was a square block of ice with a hole in the centre. On top was a foam of olives, with shards of margarita ice underneath.
The foam (espuma) is a signature trick of Adrià’s. Using nitrous oxide in canisters, Adrià pours in liquids and gelatine and pours out a variety of flavours, from orange to foie gras.
Next, we were served olives, one on each spoon. Except that they weren’t olives. They were a kind of soft, exploding olive jelly, which looked and tasted like an olive but were instead the first of many jellies. This year, it seems, Adrià has become obsessed with jellifying ingredients, and with the sensuality of food.
Every course was in some way slippery, shiny or smooth.
To complete the disconcerting canapés came what looked like four biscuits. The Oreo chocolate cream turned out to be two pieces of olive biscuit with a yogurt cream, the marshmallow was not coconut but parmesan and the crunchy-rice crispy biscuit was made of quinoa with almonds. The pièce de résistance was the popcorn foam — literally, foam that tasted of popcorn — accompanied by a tiny ball of caramelised liquid pumpkin, dusted with gold leaf. The waiter then presented us with a metal box of caviar. Inside, dozens of tiny luminous spheres begged to be eaten. But they were not, of course, caviar. They were tiny balls of jellified melon (with a few passion fruit pips), each one a palate-refreshing burst.
The next dish was one of the most bizarre of the night: a kind of pistachio ice-cream. We were told to eat it in two bites. Waiters play a critical part in the El Bulli experience, not merely in making the staggered feeding of 27 courses to 15 tables run like clockwork, but in the instructions on how to eat the food. Eat in one mouthful, we were told sometimes; start at the top and eat each part of the dish separately; eat everything together. Every course has a special instruction.
If I had a favourite course it was the Tierra 2005, which came in a polystyrene box. Inside was a mound of parmesan foam, as rich, flavoursome and filling as any beef fillet. We were handed a small plastic bag of “raspberry muesli”, which we were told to mix with the foam. The combination of raspberry and parmesan is simply sensational, the sharp dried raspberry perfectly setting off the intensity of the parmesan.
By now I wondered if we were being given too many flavours to absorb. The parmesan was so filling that I could not imagine what would come next; we were barely halfway through.
But Adrià knows just what he is doing. The small deep-green ball which we were told to eat in one mouthful was a layer of pea jelly encasing a pea soup which popped in our mouths. Accompanying it were half a dozen of the most perfect sweet peas served as a salad on a spoon to be downed in one. It prepared us for the next course: shaved dried foie gras, almonds and cocoa, atop Adrià’s take on porridge.
The next course, butter ravioli, was breathtaking. When the waiter announced its arrival I was apprehensive. But the half-inch squares of pasta, with a silky clarified butter filling, were exquisite. The food then moved up a gear, the courses becoming more complex. Succulent white asparagus was presented with olive oil gnocchi — light, delicate balls of olive oil. They were followed by duck sweetbreads, each no bigger than a shirt button, served on a tube of piped cream.
The most difficult sommelier’s job in the world must be that at El Bulli. No one wine can possibly match such a variety of flavours. And while it is possible to spend a fortune on wine, our wonderful sommelier recommended a series of very reasonable ones. I asked him for out-of-the-way bottles that could not be found in Britain. The white rioja (€50, and more than double the cost of anything else he gave us) was perfect, seeming to change character with every course.
Next, the verduras à la oriental was a bowl of perfectly al dente vegetables in a clear “oriental” broth, designed to prepare the palette for the smoked scampi with green tea “air” on top of it. Yes, air. Lighter even than the foams, Adrià’s “flavoured air” appears to have no body to it at all, but simply to be the very essence of flavour.
With the next course, salt fish, I began to wilt. Until now, the balance of flavours and sizes meant that just when you think you are too full, your appetite springs into action once more. But there was now no let-up, and the lamb’s brains that followed were simply too filling. I could not countenance any more food.
Or so I thought. The first dessert, orange and mandarin foam on top of an olive oil jelly, was perhaps the most refreshing dish I have ever eaten. It was a spring-clean of my senses. And it made me realise that it is not one’s stomach that fills up at El Bulli, it is one’s brain. There are so many different flavours, textures and combinations that the mind finds it difficult not to suffer sensory overload.
But the desserts were pure joy, the most outstanding of which were the “praline frost” and a nitrogen frozen ball of passion fruit, made at our table.
For dessert, our sommelier poured us a rare Spanish wine; he begged: “Do not tell anyone in London we have it” lest everyone ask for it and his supplies disappear. When I realised that we had drunk almost the entire bottle, I panicked — Lord knows how much so rare a sweet wine would cost. When the bill came, I simply could not believe it. We had been charged 12 euros each, the cost — astonishingly cheap in itself — of a glass.
The bill came to €467 (£318). For an experience that will change the way I think about food, as well as being a stunning meal, it was a steal — not perfect, but that is the secret. Adrià experiments with food. And without the ability to fail, no barrier is pushed forward. His failures dwarf most chefs’ successes.
I might have only a one in 200 chance of getting back, but that won’t stop me trying for next year.