This blog and I have reached a mini-milestone. It's taken just over a couple of years to get here, but we've finally made it: 100 posts.
'100' sounds vaguely important, doesn't it? I feel I should be celebrating, or doing something momentous, such as cooking some outrageously inventive dish, or coming up with a suitably profound insight into the world of food blogging.
But that's not really what this blog's been about. So far, it's been a rather eclectic mix of restaurant 'reviews', several recipes, a peek at a few cookbooks, and some random other stuff. Focussed and organised, it is not. It's not even a reliable indicator of what I cook or eat - I blog only a tiny fraction of all that. Sadly, there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week.
I have, however, learnt a few things along the way (notably, that I prefer to eat my food while it's hot, rather than faff around photographing it, and that British daylight really isn't up to the job for much of the year), and that the more I learn, the more I learn that I've got lots more learning still to do. Hmm. There endeth the first (and only) lesson: food blogging = mini life lesson.
And, of course, it's been fun. I've discovered an amazing array of food bloggers (for me, it all started with the wonderful mattbites), been to some great restaurants and food 'events', tried new recipes, and revisited old ones. I've trialled new products, reviewed cookbooks, and interviewed a few of my food heroes. When I started this blog, all those months ago, I had no idea that it would bring me so many opportunities.
Above all, though, it's been about the FOOD - about making it, eating it, trying it, sharing it, and enjoying all that it brings. Food is my raison d'etre, my modus operandi, and quite probably my most powerful memory bank. I wouldn't have it any other way.
So, dang it, I WILL celebrate - with 3 photos from last week that neatly sum up some of what 'a forkful of spaghetti' has been all about...
1. Cheese, lovely cheese
Carefully wrapped in nettles, it's gorgeous to look at - but it's better still to eat. Despite its slightly chalky, crumbly appearance, it's actually a smooth and creamy cheese. Buttery, tangy, earthy, and with a hint of the salty sea from the Cornish coast, it's subtle and extremely moreish. The baby pictured above came to me from the kind people at Lynher Dairies. Apparently, they're also offering heart-shaped truckles for Valentine's Day. If your lover is a cheese lover, then this is surely a perfect gift.
2. Chocolate, in (almost) any form
'Real' chocolate has been my big discovery of the past few years. As a child, I was never into all those sickly Cadbury and other confections, and so never really ate much chocolate. Easter eggs would go untouched. Christmas tins would go unopened. Chocolate cakes, however, and some chocolate biscuits, were a different matter altogether. And now I understand why. It's all in the cocoa. Cakes were made with the real stuff, whereas the chocolates of my childhood were not.
Now my life is happily punctuated with real chocolate, and London, even more happily for me, is studded with some truly great British chocolatiers. Paul A Young, Demarquette, L'Artisan du Chocolat, Melt, Damian Allsop... I salute you all. And a special mention must go the Mother of them all, Rococo, and its founder, Chantal Coady. I've got messy in the Motcomb Street kitchen and learnt a tremendous amount over the last two years about all things cocoa from Chantal and 'Prof Choc', Laurent Couchaux - from the secrets of ganache-making through how to make a perfect mousse to how to taste chocolate properly.
But while my stash of real chocolate is a relative novelty, my love of chocolate biscuits, cakes, and desserts still thrives. Last week, I made a batch of deeply dark, all-chocolate chewy, fudgy cookies. With a glass (or mug, in my case) of cold milk, they are one of my life's simple but indulgent pleasures.
3. Eating out
Let's get a few things straight. I love cooking, and I cook a LOT. Most of it is functional, and goes largely unblogged - the evening meal - but I enjoy it no less for that. But - and it's a big but - I do also love eating out from time to time. Whether it's being cooked for by friends or eating at a restaurant, it's all good as far as I'm concerned.
Eating in restaurants does, of course, lend itself to a special kind of expectation. I'm fascinated and awed by what some chefs come up with, and my tastebuds revel in trying something new. I usually make a point of ordering things I can't readily get hold of, have never eaten before, or know I'll never make in a month of Sundays. Sometimes expectations are sorely disappointed; sometimes they're spectacularly exceeded. For me, it's all part of the adventure.
At the very tail end of last summer, I was lucky enough to visit Pierre Koffman's 'pop-up' restaurant. From start to finish, the meal was superb, and the experience will live long in my memory. Last week, I received this through the post:
A menu from the night, signed by the great man himself! I was, and still am, ridiculously chuffed. Claire, his partner, had been as good as her word. She took a note of my name on the night and promised she'd get Pierre to sign a menu for me. Weeks and months passed. Nothing. I wasn't unduly disappointed - I still had the memories of one of my great dining experiences, and Koffmann is, after all, a tremendously busy man. How could I possibly be disappointed?
Now, though, that memory is forever signed and sealed. I'll be framing it and putting it somewhere that I can see it every day. The autograph thrills me, the cartoon amuses me, and the menu serves as inspiration and a reminder of a truly great meal and experience. I couldn't ask for more.
And that's what food is all about, isn't it? Fun, experiences, memories.
What will my next 100 posts bring? I have no idea. But I can guarantee you there's a lot more fun, experiences, and memories still to pass this way.