What am I up to?

What am I up to?

Well, it’s funny when you have an old blog that is still up, but not being posted to. Last time I posted, I talked about how I was part of a new blog. It was a great and wonderful experience, if not a bit frustrating. I loved everyone I worked on the blog with, but as I did a lot of the blog management, they would frustrate me sometimes.

However, as I’m no longer in London, I have moved on from The Boozy Bunch to start my own blog The Gay Gastronaut. It’s mostly restaurants at the moment, but I definitely want to incorporate cooking (as I’m still passionate about it) as soon as I get some of those recipes running around in my head figured out.

I hope you join me there (especially if you found this site, as there is still a little bit of activity here…)

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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized


It’s time to say goodbye…

Well, I think it’s time to say goodbye. I mean, I was really bad about content anyway, and I just wasn’t doing enough baking/cooking to keep the blog up, and a lot of posts seemed to end up being about restaurants or pop-ups or traveling anyway.

However, it’s also time to say hello. Hello to The Boozy Bunch. Several friends and I have started a collective blog. Because it’s really hard to be consistent and publish interesting stuff and have a day job (and have a social life). It’s more of a restaurant review type blog, but there will be room for the occasional recipe (I plan on posting some of my more original creations there in the coming year).

So please come along and check us out. While most of the blogs will be London-based, there will be plenty of room for seeing the world as well.

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Posted by on November 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


Laurent-Perrier Gourmet Odyssey

Last year, I got information about a dining event called the Gourmet Odyssey that was occurring during the London Restaurant Festival. The concept is that you start at a venue for drinks, then go to another restaurant for your starter, a second restaurant for your main and a final restaurant for dessert. At each location, there is a different Laurent-Perrier champagne to drink with your food. Last year, the restaurants were in the Soho/Fitzrovia area, and we had such a great time, I picked up tickets for another one occurring this year.

This year, the odyssey I chose had locations in Shoreditch. It looked the best of the three, with one location being at The Clove Club which we had dined at earlier this year. It was so good, I was willing to go back again. The champagne reception was at The Ace Hotel. There is a bar on the seventh floor that had a balcony overlooking “beautiful” Shoreditch. The non-vintage Brut champagne here was quite free-flowing (as it was at all the locations), and we had a great time sipping the champagne and watching the other people who chose to spend their day with us. We got split into three groups, so we could round-robin the restaurants.

From what I saw, we definitely ended up with the best route. Of the three starters (a pheasant dumpling with truffle and chestnut, tuna ceviche and prawns with chili and yogurt), ours was the one that looked the best: The dumpling. We hopped on a bus and headed to The Clove Club to have our first course. Since I had been here before, I new what to expect. And they had us seating in communal dining tables. Unfortunately, I ended up sitting next to some people that thought a bit highly of themselves, and ended up talking with both Tom and the people on the other end of the table more. The bread: delicious. The dumpling: Fantastic! I mopped up as much sauce as I could with the bread while enjoying more Laurent-Perrier champagne (this time the non-vintage Ultra Brut). Upon leaving, I chatted with the chef, who remembered me from the last time we came, and mentioned the review I made of his restaurant and the story about my mother telling me about the restaurant. That was a nice surprise.

We got back on the bus and after a massively long detour that had too many closed roads and directions from everyone on the bus that wasn’t the bus driver, we finally made it to the second location: Merchants Tavern. This venue is absolutely gorgeous with an amazing open kitchen and a great bar area. Here we had the 2004 vintage Brut champagne with a main course of venison with cabbage. The venison was cooked amazingly and everything on the plate went really well together. There was a deliciously rich ragu that they put over the venison as well. My favorite part was the juniper berry crumb. I liked it so much, I even asked the server how the venison was prepared, and she went to ask the chef. After this course, I was ready to come back here to try the full dining experience.

Our last stop was 8 Hoxton Square. This time we opted to walk because the venue was incredibly close, and we didn’t want to get stuck in endless loops on the bus. That worked out okay for us because they gave us a bit of champagne while we were waiting, so we got a bit more than some of the other people. It was also our favorite Laurent-Perrier variety: The Rose Cuvee. Dessert was a rich, chocolate torte with amaretti biscuits and vanilla cream. It was the perfect ending to the meal. You can never go wrong with chocolate. The venue itself is really laid back and has that hipster decoration vibe, but I’m kind of used to that now from Shoreditch restaurants so it wasn’t really off-putting.

All in all, even though we often got seated with people we weren’t completely fond of, we had an amazing time and had some amazing food and drink. It’ll definitely be on my list to do again during the restaurant festival next year.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Restaurants


Masterchef Pop-up Restaurant

A few months ago, I received an email about the one month Masterchef Pop-up Restaurant and Bar happening in London. Basically, several Masterchef winners and contestants were going to be cooking food every week over the course of a month (Mostly October 2014). Each week was featuring different chefs, and Tom and I decided to go and check it out. We do watch pretty much every iteration of Masterchef in the UK (some of the ones in other countries are a bit over-dramatic), so I chose a group of chefs that I remembered being really good: The 2012 winner (Tim) and runner-ups (Sara and Tom). I also opted to get the tasting menu that consisted of two courses from each of them.

So we arrived. The venue was the 10th and 11th floor of the Blue Fin Building near the Tate Modern. The bar was on an outside terrace with a few drink selections available. We started with Bloody Marys, but unfortunately, they were a bit lack-luster and the celery was a bit wilted. We also had some Pimms and I had a G&T. They drinks were okay, but nothing great. Also because the terrace is outside on the 10th floor, it got quite cold quite quickly, and it soon became obvious we weren’t dressed well enough. We tried to see if there was an indoor bar in the restaurant, but we were turned away. Luckily, they told us about some indoor seating someplace, so we got a drink to bring there where we could be slightly warmer.

At 7:30 we could get seated, and they presented us with a complimentary glass of champagne which was a nice touch. We were told that there’s an open kitchen area were we could look into the kitchen, so we decided to take a look before dinner. We did get to see a glimpse of Sara and Tom working, but Tim seemed to be missing that night. The venue itself is quite simple, but they did try a bit to make it a bit nicer than just a standard cafeteria-style area. We ordered some wine to go with the first two courses (champagne) and settled in for our meal.

We opted to get a bottle of champagne to go with the starters. They were serving Laurent Perrier, and while it’s not the best champagne available, it is always tasty and enjoyable. The first starter was a confit salmon with micro greens and lemon. And the flavor was really nice, but the salmon was a bit overcooked. The second starter was rabbit. And the rabbit was probably the best course. The tureen is really delicious, and I really enjoyed it, so with the first two courses down, I was really looking forward to what else there was to come. Although the fish was overcooked, the flavors seemed nice. We also managed to get quite a few bread refills. There was a white roll and a rye roll. Both were really great. Apparently other tables were offered a rosemary potato roll, but I think those ran out quite early on.

We now switched to a barolo for the mains. The wine was quite nice, so we were happy about that. The first main was fish again, and unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. The broth it was served in was really tasty, but the fish itself was incredibly overcooked. The mussel that came with it was also really terrible. The only saving grace was that the scallop was cooked well, but overall the course really lacked quite a bit. The fourth course of pork belly was tasty, but again wasn’t amazing.

For dessert, we got a half-bottle of the Tokaji. Again the wine was really tasty, but the two desserts were a bit disappointing. The first one of mango and passionfruit with candied olives isn’t an original flavor combination for me (we had something similar last year at Pollen Street Social), but the red sorbet it was served with was really tasty. The S’mores was also really disappointing. I was hoping for something really gooey and delicious, but it was just kind of boring. Since Tim is an American, I was hoping he’d get this course right, but it really wasn’t very exciting. The gold popping candy that came with it was really good though.

The service was a bit spotty as well. Even though our server Amber was really nice, she didn’t seem to know what she was doing. Even though she claimed we were her top priority table, it really didn’t feel that way. We also talked to one of the organizers of the event when she came by our table and when we were leaving. She asked us how it was, and given how much wine I had been drinking, I wasn’t shy in telling her that it was quite disappointing. The food was nice, but not great, and the execution of the dishes was really lacking as several courses were overcooked. Given there were 100+ diners there for tasting menus, it’s clear that it was just too many people to handle. Maybe a lot of them aren’t experienced with that kind of food, but I was expecting a lot more. So when we were asked if we’d come back if they did it again, I had to tell them no. That I enjoyed the experience of having food cooked by Masterchef contestants, but the execution and the set-up really let them down. It’s all a learning experience I’m sure, and maybe they can improve, but for £65 a head, there are far better places in London I could be eating dinner.

So overall the experience was interesting. I’m glad I went to try something new and experience some previous Masterchef contestants’ food. (Although the meal we had in Cornwall at a restaurant of another contestant was far superior to this.) I can’t say it was the best food I’ve had, but it was fun. So, for me it was a definite three star experience. I hope that they manage to improve things over the next few weeks, and maybe it will improve quite a bit if they decide to do it again.

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Restaurants, Travel


Booze (but spherified)

For Christmas this year, my parents gave me two molecular gastronomy kits: One for alcohol and one for food. To be honest, most of the chemicals in the kits overlap considerably, but the recipe DVD included is specific for the kit. One Sunday, Tom blurted out that we should attempt to use the alcohol kit to make some booze. And hey, it was a Sunday, so why not?

We opted for the spherification recipes. There were two ways to do it. The recipes to make the caviar (small balls) had you add the sodium alginate to the liquid you were spherifying and make a calcium lactate bath. The larger balls added the calcium lactate to the liquid and use a sodium alginate bath.

For the larger balls, we decided to make some pomegranate juice balls and some lime juice balls. The basic procedure is to add the calcium lactate to the juice, blend it with a hand blender, pour the juice into a mold and freeze the juice in the mold until they were easy to handle. That sounded fairly easy, so we did the pomegranate juice (with a few pomegranate seeds frozen inside for good measure) first, then while it was freezing, we moved onto the caviar.

The caviar balls were to make a fancy Gin and Tonic. You took the tonic and mixed it with blue curacao, added the sodium alginate, blended with a hand blender and dropped it by a pipette into the calcium lactate bath. The blue curacao gives it a nice blue color, but we couldn’t find any, so we opted for some green melon liqueur and some raspberry liqueur to make green caviar and red caviar. We also left some with just tonic to give some comparison. It’s a pretty tedious process. There’s a lot of pipetting to get a small amount of balls. But we stuck to it. The recipe then called for the tonic balls to be added to gin and a slice of lime. Then drink.

The caviar didn’t work so well. First blending the tonic water with the sodium alginate caused a ton of bubbles. It made it hard to pipette. I think it might be better to make the tonic a bit more flat before attempting to make at home. The liqueur didn’t really do much either. They also got quite gelified, so they were like little spheres of tonic gel. It also is incredibly strong to drink straight gin with a few tonic balls, so we ended up adding tonic to the drink as well. Overall, while it makes a cool effect, I think the smaller balls might be better left to the food preparation.

Once we had some frozen pomegranate juice, we put the lime juice with the calcium lactate in the freezer. We attempted to put a few of the frozen juice balls in the sodium alginate. It seemed to work okay, but if one burst, the bath really started gelling up. It wasn’t pleasant. The bath was also incredibly viscous so it was hard to handle the balls. Turns out later after looking things up online that you should use distilled water when making the sodium alginate bath. If there’s calcium in the water (and in London, there’s a lot of it), it really makes a viscous bath that is hard to deal with. However, we did manage to get a few pomegranate balls out and had a couple of delicious pomegranate martinis with them.

The lime balls worked out a bit easier. I’m not sure if there’s something in the pomegranate juice, or what, but we got several really nice lime balls that Tom put into margaritas. The only issue is they sit quite low in the glass so you had to pick them out and burst them in your mouth every once in awhile during the drinking so you wouldn’t end up with them all at the bottom.

Turns out though, that the lime balls work great for shots. Put them in the bottom of a tequila shot and you have your lime already for you at the end. It may be my new favorite way to do the shots. If you mix some water, salt and soy lecithin, you can also make a salt foam to put on top which takes care of the salt. These shots are definitely going to make an appearance at our next party. The nice thing is that you can make up the frozen lime juice early and the balls seem to stay intact for quite awhile soaking in a water bath after they’ve been spherified, so you can make them in batches and not worry too much.

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Molecular gastronomy


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Slow-cooked Ox Cheeks

Now that the summer is over, I have a lot more time to mess around in the kitchen. (And it’s a lot cooler! Cooking in the summer, especially this summer, leads to unpleasant extra heat in the house.) I’d been chatting with a friend about ox cheeks and how good they are, and I’ve been eating them at one of London’s finest barbeque trucks. So I decided what better way to try to prepare them than to cook them sous vide.

Whenever I decide to cook something new, I always search to see how others have prepared it online. Almost every website said cooked at 82 C for 8-9 hours. Okay that’s fine. However, I’m not always sure why these sous vide recipes call for such high heats. I mean, I could just braise the ox cheek in a nice red wine and some beef stock to create a soft, delicious ox cheek with a ready made gravy. Isn’t the point of sous vide cooking to go “low and slow” and to be able to cook some of these tougher cuts of meat really well and still keep them medium rare? I think so. To be fair, 9 hours is pretty slow and 82 C is pretty low, but it’s not low or slow enough for me. I finally found a recipe that kept the cheeks at 55 C (medium rare) for 3 days. This sounded ideal for me, so I went for it.

Not being sure how hard the meat would be to handle when I was finished, I opted to sear them first, then freeze them for a bit to solidify the juices and make it easier to vacuum seal. Luckily, I was also making braised lamb shanks for Sunday dinner, so I just coated them in flour, salt and pepper and seared them in the same pan to give the shanks a bit more flavor. I also threw a couple of rosemary thyme sprigs into each of the bags. Once they were sealed, and the temperature was right, I popped them in the water bath to bathe away for three days. There was a bit of a worry when we were out on Tuesday night and part of the city lost power (quite close to our house as well), so I was worried that we had lost power and the previous two days had gone to waste, but luckily we were spared from the power cut and the cheeks continued on their three day cook.

When they were done, I took them out. They looked and smelled marvelous. I took the small amount of juices left in the back and reduced them in a pan with a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and Lancashire sauce that we had received recently as a gift from some friends. Apparently there are other shires in the UK that have a sauce besides just Worcestershire. Who knew? I served the sliced (and perfectly medium rare) cheeks on some potato rosti with a bit of the reduction and a side of steamed sugar snap peas.

They tasted divine. They were so soft you could cut them with a butter knife. The sauce added a nice boost, but was really unnecessary as the ox cheek really has an amazing flavor on its own. It’s definitely something I’m keeping in my repertoire as it’s quite easy, as long as I plan ahead. It would also go great with some fondant potatoes or creamy mash as well.

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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Sous Vide


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Lisbon: The Port Wine Institute and Belcanto

Our last port of call on our cruise was in Lisbon. A few days prior, we had been lamenting about the poor food quality on board the ship, and we started looking for fine dining restaurants and places to go to satisfy our foodie cravings. Unfortunately, in other ports we either didn’t have enough time to go to some of the places we really wanted or they were closed (Sunday is not the best day to be spending a whole day in Spain).

Luckily, we hit Lisbon on a Tuesday and Belcanto was open for lunch. However, we had a bit of time before our reservation, so we headed up to the Port Wine Institute to try some port and relax with a drink. At 11:00 am. Yes, we’re those sort of people. We walked through the streets of Lisbon (which is absolutely gorgeous by the way), and ended up on a hill where there was an amazing view of the city. This area was also directly across the street of the institute so it was conveniently located for us.

The institute is a pretty spectacular place. The green carpeting and comfortable seating really make you feel welcome and invited in. The service is a bit slow at times, but we ended up trying several different port wines while we were there. We started with the standard late bottle vintage (LBV). While these may not be as nice as the vintage ports, those were not available to try by the glass. However the ones we tried were nice, and we ended up picking up a nice 2003 LBV to take home. Next, we moved onto the tawny ports. Tom has never been a fan of them, but he figured if there was a place to find one he liked, it was at the Institute. Turns out, he likes old tawny ports, as he had a 1961 that was out of this world. It was actually a Colheita which is a single vintage tawny, so nicer than your standard one. That port wasn’t available in the bottle, only by the glass, so we tried a few others and ended up with a 1967 Colheita to take home. We also picked up a vintage port because we could.

At the restaurant, we opted for the tasting menu. It was six courses, and we asked about wine pairings, and they had one that had a glass with every course or one with every other course. There was no question as we opted for the full pairings. They were also all Portuguese wines which really made the meal special. I missed a picture of the first amuse bouche (consisting of a trio of olives), but got photos of everything else. The next amuse bouche was something that looked like a ferrero rocher, but turned out to be a bit of foie gras pate in a shell. Delish. It was served with a bit of a crispy cod thing. The last amuse bouche was barnacles! Barnacles! I’d never had them before, but was very impressed.

For the actual meal, the first course was a display of shellfish that looked like the ocean. The shellfish was all very tasty and the presentation was spot on. Course two was pickled fish with a beetroot an onion sauce. The fish was really soft and tender, and the beets were a great match. The wine for this course was spectacular as well. Course three is the dish that apparently got them their Michelin star this year. It’s a slow cooked egg with gold leaf and truffles. It was absolutely heavenly. Next was mullet with a liver sauce (made from the same mullet!) served with gnocchi to represent the sidewalks of Lisbon. Fifth was a course of suckling pig belly served with a sauce they painted on! There were also crisps in an edible bag served on the side. There was a pre-dessert of a frosted raspberry with wasabi. Interesting flavor combination and delicious! Last we had the mandarin. It was a mandarin foam inside of a mandarin jelly with sorbet and mandarin slices. One of the best desserts I’ve had in awhile. It was served with a sweet white port, and we realized we were missing out not trying sweet white port before (we had only had dry white and were not fans).

After lunch, we ended up walking around Lisbon looking for some of the wine we had just drank at lunch. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, but we picked up a few other bottles of wine to bring back home and try. I didn’t get to see much of Lisbon, but I loved what I saw. We also picked up a couple of Portuguese tarts to have for later. Lisbon (and probably other places in Portugal) is now on my list of places to return to in Europe.

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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Travel