Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2016

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

10 Trofie Pasta with fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and grated parmesan

9 A Taste of Peru

8 Wagamama Pork Ribs

7 Well that was nice

6 Christmas Four Bird Roast

5 Marks and Spencer’s Pork Medallions

4 Basil and pine nut margherite

3 Newquay Steam Beer

2 Chilli Squid from Wagamama

1 Sirloin for Beef Wellington

The top three posts were the same top three in 2015. Well here’s to some better and more exciting posts for 2017.

…but you don’t like it!

Kingston upon Thames

Down in London for a family visit, it was time for lunch. Kingston has a lot of wonderful places to eat, however with young children we chose Zizzi, partly as one wanted pizza and the other is gluten-free (and Zizzi do a nice gluten free pizza).

It was a Saturday lunchtime and the place looked packed standing outside, I didn’t hold out much hope that we would be able to get a table, especially as we hadn’t booked. However the branch of Zizzi in Kingston has an upstairs, which was a lot less crowded and we able to easily find a table for the seven of us. I quite liked the nautical theme of the decoration and furniture.

Zizzi in Kingston

I do like the rustica style pizza at Zizzi and have had their Carnosa before which I enjoyed. Going over the menu I was tempted to have the Carnosa again, but saw the new Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma. This was described as slow-cooked pulled pork and crispy crackling on a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella with pepperoni, sunblush tomatoes, thyme & smoked chilli jelly.

Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma

I almost always avoid menu items with pulled pork in them, as I don’t like it. They usually contain a sticky sweet barbecue sauce, from the menu description it was apparent that this pizza didn’t. I should point out I wasn’t certainly expecting any kind of authentic Italian experience here either.

I like how they use the term, Fior di Latte mozzarella to make it sound exotic and authentic, what it actually means this is cheap mozzarella made from cow’s milk and not the buffalo milk that “proper” mozzarella is made from. However when it comes to topping a pizza, I don’t believe it makes too much difference when it comes to flavour. I do though think it’s amusing they are using the Italian terminology to make the pizza appear more “authentic”.

The rustica style pizza is a stretched pizza base, which is more authentic than most pizza you can buy, it’s also similar to the Romana style pizze you can get Pizza Express. I like the crisp and texture of this pizza. I liked the crunchiness of the crackling and tasty pork. The other toppings all added to the overall experience.

I did enjoy this pizza and found it a delicious combination of tastes and textures.

The service was friendly and fast, however though I ordered a starter, it never arrived, the waiter had forgotten to put it through to the kitchen!

The other starter arrived just as we started to eat it, all the main courses arrived, it was bread, so less of an issue, but even so…

So, nice environment, great pizza and okay service. Even if it is busy, you should still as a restaurant be able to manage, I was expecting Saturday lunchtime to be busy, so should Zizzi.

A little more Mexican market eating

You can tell how much I like somewhere sometimes whether I go again, so just a week after my previous visit, I found myself waiting outside Wahaca for it to open at midday to grab a quick lunch. There was a bit of a queue to get in, but I think that demonstrates how popular the place is to go and eat.

Wahaca, one of a chain of Mexican street food eating places that to be honest I only found out about last week! There are branches across London and England, there is even a branch in Bristol! I went again to the branch on the South Bank. The restaurant is situated on the South Bank next to Waterloo bridge. It is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels, with both inside and outside seating.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. As with my previous experience the staff were friendly and welcoming.

There is a wide choice of dishes, the menu is split into nibbles, bigger food and street food. The street food menu is a range of smaller dishes. As I had missed breakfast, there was a cancelled train, so I had rushed to catch the earlier one, and was hungrier, so I went with three dishes, whereas in my last visit I had had two dishes.

I really wanted to try something different this time so made sure I didn’t go with the dishes I had before.

Of the three dishes I ordered, the first to arrive was some taquitos. These were two corn tortillas filled, rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salads and salsas.

taquitos were filled with crab and shrimp in a gently spiced Veracruzan tomato sauce, topped with habanero slaw and fresh tomato salsa.

These taquitos were filled with crab and shrimp in a gently spiced Veracruzan tomato sauce, topped with habanero slaw and fresh tomato salsa.

I really liked the look of this dish, I thought it was well presented. The habanero slaw and tomato salsa were delicious and very fresh. As for the taquitos I wasn’t as impressed with them as I thought I would be. They were quite spicy and crunchy, but I couldn’t really taste the crab and shrimp. I was hoping that the crunch of the crispy rolled tortilla would be complemented by the fresh taste of seafood, but alas it wasn’t to be. I really did enjoy the slaw and salsa. It was reasonably priced at £4.95.

My next two dishes arrived together. One of these was one I was going to order last time, but in the end chose something different. I went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

I really enjoyed this dish, the steak was cooked well and was very tasty. The accompanying salsa and guacamole added a little extra to the dish. Each tacos had two or three pieces of steak. These I thought were also reasonable priced at £4.50 for three.

My final dish was one of the specials, Gringa Taco. Described in the menu as Mexico city’s favourite street food dish. Grilled pork pastor, marinated in achiote and pineapple, served in a floured tortilla with toasted cheese.

Gringa Taco

I did wonder what achiote was and found our later that it is a Yucatecan condiment called recado rojo or “achiote paste”. It is made from ground Bixa orellana seeds combined with other spices. As a result the pork was very red and quite spicy. The floured tortilla was first spread with guacamole and the pork added as a layer to the top of that before a chunk of grilled pineapple topped the dish.

This was quite a spicy dish, but was delicious. The pork was very tender and the guacamole helped offset the heat of the spice. I did think that a spoonful of sour cream would have helped finish the dish, but I am guessing that is more American than Mexican. I did like the grilled pineapple which added a real contrasting sweetness to the spiciness of the dish and was fresh and tasty. Reasonably priced at £5.15.

The service as before was excellent and I really enjoyed my food and the meal.

Looking forward to next time.

Time for some dumplings

Time for some dumplings

I did think that I might miss the Temple Quay market this week because of the rain, however it stopped so off I went.

There were fewer stalls this week, and fewer regulars, but even so there was a great choice of food. I thought the rain might have put people off, but the queues were already really long. The queue for the Thai stall was already across the square!

I did start queing at the Scoff and Relish stall as the salad and grilled chicken sounded great and looked fantastic too, being chargrilled on they tiny portable barbecues. I also liked the idea of the accompaning scoff balls, savoury scones. Alas they were struggling with the demand and the queue wasn’t moving and the food wasn’t quite ready. Maybe next time…

In the end I went with Ah Ma’s Dumplings. There was a slow moving queue here too. The stall has these huge towers of bamboo steamers laden with freshly steamed dumplings containing a choice of fillings. There was no tiger prawn, scallop and leek (probably sold out) today, so the choice was pork and ginger, beef and spinach, chicken and coriander or vegetarian.

ah-mas-dumplings

I went with the veggie shitake and cashew pan fried dumplings along with the pork belly with hoisin bao.

I was impressed and tempted with the dumpling pots complete with vegetables, noodles and broth, likewise the sides of Asian salads sounded very interesting. That day they had carrot & courgette ribbons with a tahini, honey, lemon dressing; the other choice was sweet chilli pickled cucumber with toasted black sesame seeds.

The dumplings were really impressive, beautiful steamed dough that because of the pan frying. Inside was a filling that was deep, tasty and even a little meaty, but they were vegetarian (well ‘ish they are pan fried in the same pan as the pork and chicken ones, so if you are vegetarian you might want to have them steamed instead).

The bao was delicious, the slow roasted pork belly was both sour and sweet, full of interesting deep flavours and very tender. The steamed dough made is substantive. I have seen neater and tidier bao buns before, but the flavour of the filling made up for this.

Ah Ma has a growing reputation, having been mentioned as one of the top sixteen street food stalls in the UK in both the Metro and Olive magazine. In my mind that is a well deserved reputation, delicious food, beautifully made and presented and lots of interesting choices of flavours and textures. I hope to visit them again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Illy Coffee

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

At number ten is an article entitled, Alba Ristorante Part Two. Back in 2008 when attending Handheld Learning, one evening we went to a local Italian next to the Barbican in London. I do remember the meal, it was delicious. This was a really nice upmarket Italian restaurant but with quite reasonable prices, especially for London.

The ninth most popular post was a Classic Heineken Advert from 1976.

Classic Heineken Advert from 1976

The eighth post was about cooking Chorizo, Cooking Chorizo. as was the seventh post Chorizo Frito al Vino.

The post at number six was about Basil & pine nut marguerite and a simple pasta recipe was at number five, Pasta in Tomato Sauce.

The fourth most popoular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the third most read post on the blog.

The second most popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, this one was about the Chilli Squid from Wagamama.

The most popular post this year was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

Well here’s raising a cup of coffee and wishing you all the best for 2016.