Tuesday 29 March 2016

We're making an entirely noord-sourced kraut and it's not entirely a gimmick

The idea was in equal parts meant to make things simple and to shut me up. Not to use the broken record saying but I sounded like a broken record — nowhere to eat once you’re out of Amsterdam, your best bet of eating something honest is to have a herring, why are we eating tomatoes that don’t taste anything like tomatoes, and how is it that the further from Amsterdam you go (sorry, it’s my point of reference), the plates transform from being round to rectangular? I suppose that this might be considered a peculiarity worth laughing about in a less grave situation but as it’s to do with dinner, the situation is very grave indeed. 

How come there’s been no PR whizz whizzy enough to market stampot as a, if not national dish, then at least a very important one, present at all occasions you'd invite your family to instead of all of us just sort of knowing it is in private? Why, after 4 winters of stampot weather, do I know of only two places that make an excellent one (any tips?); one of which is the furthest north you can get even hellbent, in Groningen? Same goes for sauerkraut: where’s that at? If I want to eat kraut outside the dark cave in which I store my frustration I have to go to a surinamese restaurant where the tradeoff is that the staff think I’m a heathen for ordering the menu-permanent (thank all my gods) dish of zoutvlees and kraut with a roti. I’d say it was embarrassing but I can’t grasp the magnitude of my mistake I'm that much part heathen. I just know that while I’m defending my actions they’re rolling their eyeballs.

So why, suggests Alex, don’t we make a kraut sourced entirely from things grown in Amsterdam Noord? More, I believe, for the fact he’s the sort of person who likes to make everything into a game rather than the type to seize the (PR) opportunity to elevate sauerkraut into some locally-sourced half god hovering in the space between the farm and your table. Not that I’d put it past him.

Uh because people probably don’t really like kraut?

Friday 11 March 2016

Worst is the best

I, like the rest of the Boeing 787, was salivating. You know how it goes: you’ve been staring at nothing for 4 hours, maybe less, probably much less, when ‘nothing’ all of a sudden becomes some horrendous film like Mad Max which the (by the looks of it) newly engaged couple sitting in 23 A and B are watching in the seats in front of you, and which you therefore can’t help but also watch. Through the gap.

Ok, so the movies I end up watching through The Gap aren’t generally the ones I’d watch at home, and Mad Max is actually a very bad example because it’s not something I’d watch anywhere; but every once and a while something ok comes along, which, even if not good, is at least something which awakens enough of desire in me to press eject on your controller-cum-telephone thing (has anyone ever seen anyone telephone from an airplane?) and tune in to the beginning.

Which is how I started watching Chef. And how I, probably like all the rest of the people that have watched Chef, became mildly obsessed — ok, no, ‘obsessed’ is too strong a word; let’s say ‘personally involved’ — in the eating of Cuban sandwiches.

And with all good eating comes appreciation. In this case, a staunch appreciation for all the Cuban sandwiches this side of Miami done right. ‘Right’ requiring the frying of both sides of each piece of bread so they’re golden brown, soon to be brown-brown (a commonly known secret is mayonnaise). ‘Right’ requiring the correct amount of hours to have passed the pork shoulder by, first as it’s brined (a full 12 according to some recipes), then as it soaks in marinade (2 should be enough), and the last 3 as it’s slowly roasted. Then there are, of course, the pickles you need to get it right, and to which I dedicate a next-level appreciation all their own; the cheese (‘Swiss Cheese’ — as in the stuff with holes in, not from Switzerland — I know what you’re thinking but just this once, ok? because this is an American thing, not a continental thing, but if it were up to me, I’d use Cheddar), that nuclear-yellow mustard (absolutely no real mustard allowed) and let us not forget the napkins. Obviously a good Cuban sandwich requires many napkins.

So it was a good sign that we had to go through a lot of napkins when we shared our Cuban at Worst. And as bad as it sounds — and, ok, it does sound bad, no one really likes to share — it was, in fact, a good thing that we were sharing. Because then we still had room to for the weissworst with a cauliflower puree and coleslaw (something I rarely trust anyone but my mom to get right but now that group’s been bumped up to two, the second being Worst), and three fully loaded (buckwheat) crepes stretched around chunks of sweet, roasted squash, spinach and cheese. All done, I can tell you, exactly right. 

Photo by Sophia van den Hoek. Also published on Unfolded.


Monday 7 March 2016

I don't put on dinners to make speeches

I don’t put on dinners because I want to make speeches. I hate making speeches. Even talking. Publicly that is, I don’t mind talking to the person next to me, though I find I’m a better talker (i.e., I talk) when the number of people next to me isn’t much more than three.

I know, I know, people just assume you’re going to do a good job. They want you to do a good job. In fact they’ve probably got their fingers, toes and eyes crossed hoping that you’re gonna do a good job, that you won’t fuck up. No one likes a fuck up, especially if the one fucking up is doing the talk. That’s just awkward.

Once I was given a book called How to bluff your way through public speaking. And I’ve been told that being on stage talking is one of the few moments in your life where you control everything. Plus there’s always what Steven Spielberg said, namely that people will sit through 20 minutes of anything. But this is a) next level advice and b) assumes you like control. It also assumes you’ve passed the bluffing stage and have 19 more minutes to go. It assumes you’ve read the book. And I haven’t. 

You’d think you’d be able to talk about something you made up. You’d think you’d be able to talk about something you want to do. Well, maybe you can. Certainly everyone speaking at TED can. But I can’t. I can hardly squeak out that tonight’s menu will be and say toe-curlingly excruciating things like ‘We cooked you some nice food’. Nice food?!

Yes, I said that.

'280 slm' 2015, Costadilà

I don’t know if buying the same book twice (ok, multiple times) ‘cus I found another with a better cover is any better, different or worse than originally buying the book for it’s cover but I do it so it whatever. I have definitely also bought wine solely for its label and while that sinks in know this: even though these days I care too much about what I’m drinking actually tastes like to go all in for awesome alliteration, when you’re in a safe place, a good label can be a good place to start.

For instance when you’re in a natural wine bar and don’t speak the language (Italian) and are one of those people (me) who think you’ll somehow offend the person whose language you don’t speak less by speaking as little as possible and leave all communication to someone more civilised than you. So I pointed to the label I recognised from somewhere and asked my boyfriend to ask the nice looking man at the bar whether he could tell us anything about it.

He told us it was a Prosecco made in the old-world way called Prosecco Col Fondo and also that the grapes were hand-picked, fermented with indigenous yeasts, skin macerated (25 days) and the wine left on the lees for 5 months before bottling. Then he shook it up, told us his name’s Ernesto and that he made it.

The lesson? If you judge a wine by its label you might still be drinking hours later with the guy who made it.

Tasting notes:

The 280 slm looks like smoggy sun. Tastes like morning sun drying dew off daises. There’s straw and wood smoke and fresh bread yeast and sitting slightly buzzed on a fence with your scarf on eating apples in fall.


“280slm” 2015
Glera + Verdiso + Bianchetta Trevigiana, + Perera
Treviso, Italy

25 days skin maceration


Sunday 6 March 2016

The Extra Supper


Blood orange water kefir with artichoke and juniper berries


Ribboned raw zucchini salad with parsley, mint and red onion 


Ras el hanout butter-roasted kleine kipjes in chef hats with goose fat potatoes and roasted spring onions


Moon pizzas


Blood orange upside down cake with grated cardamon cream

Just as I was taking pictures the oven was delivered. The oven didn't fit inside. We knew this for certain when we'd taken off the door. And then the second door. So we cooked and plated outside, dressed very much for inside. After that I didn't take any more pictures. But we did make a 3D invitation.

Click for the (three) photos I did take.

Saturday 5 March 2016

The oranges weren't orange enough

The oranges weren’t orange enough and the not-perfectly-green apples had already been purged. The tomatoes were, for the day, to be considered vegetables because it was obvious the vegetables needed a dash of red so that they could be identified as vegetables and not just kale, which is how it looked now, because kale sends the wrong message or at least not exactly the right one, this is primetime TV after all, possibly not the biggest demographic of kale eaters; and speaking of kale, could you replace that box over there? 5-hours or is it now 8 at any rate lots later and it’s no longer looking its best and everything needs to at least seem the best of everything because god-dammit this is what we're being paid to do.

Later on all the bread had to be thrown away. 

But only once we’d moved everything back to where it had been after moving it all so it looked just like it did but different. But then, who even remembered what it looked like before?

And the whole time no one even blinked an eyelid because everyone was a professional and a very professional one at that and they were shooting a 30-second commercial and 30 seconds is hardly enough time to blink in anyway. (I just timed myself and I seem to blink every 4-seconds).

Illustration from Pen & Palate.


Friday 4 March 2016

The Southern Supper

An aperitif

Aperol, bourbon, bitters, grapefruit, maple syrup 

To begin

Leaves with a lemon-garlic vinaigrette


Apple-brined, whole-roast, organic pig


Roast Coquelet


6-hour barbeque-baked beans
Caramelised onions
Red cabbage & fennel slaw
Lemon-zest apple sauce
Homemade bourbon BBQ sauce 

to be drunk with vin naturel: a Litrozzo Rosso of the Greghetto grape, Le Coste, 2014

For after

A pecan & chocolate tart with whipped bourbon crème fraîche 

Lot61 Coffee

Johnnie Walker Whisky

(All photos by Sophia van den Hoek)


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