Sunday, 31 July 2011

Walthamstow Short Film Club

Over the past week, I had spotted several posters around town and the village advertising a short film night at the Rose and Crown, so Jon and I went along on Friday night to check it out. These events have been running on the last Friday of the month since March and are held in the red room at the back of the pub.
On Friday we saw about eight or nine short films, covering a huge variety of styles from horror to comedy, with a couple of heartwarming and thought provoking documentaries thrown into the mix too. At the end of the night we voted for our favourite film, with this months winner being 'Billie' by Ana Pinheiro, the tale of an eccentric and charismatic Big Issue seller who told the story of her life on the streets and how she managed to turn her life around. You can see a clip of the film here. At only £3.50 each with sweets or popcorn thrown in, I would definitely recommend going along to the next film evening at the end of August.
Walthamstow short film club runs on the last Friday of the month at 7.30pm. You can find more details on their Facebook page here.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Walthamstow Farmers' Market

Walthamstow Farmers' Market

Every Walthamstow resident is familiar with Walthamstow market, the long bustling street full of 'paaand-a-bowl' fruit and veg stalls which sprawls all the way from Walthamstow Central station down to St James' Street, making it apparently one of the longest street markets in Europe.  Every Sunday since September 2007, the high street has also been home to a rather smaller but in my opinion more enticing selection of stalls that makes up the farmers' market. Every week, a group of farmers and producers come to show and sell their wares, everything from wild game, vegetables, organic meat, cakes, pastries and fresh herbs. Here are a few of my favourite stalls:
Seriously Italian: A fantastic selection of homemade pestos, gnocchi and other Italian dishes.
Lincolnshire poacher cheese: Their signature poacher cheese is wonderful, as well as their fresh butter and raw milk. The also do gift boxes around Christmas time - a perfect present for that cheese lover in your family
Radwinter Wild Game: Ideal for picking up those neglected British favourites such as rabbit, venison, pigeon and partridge. Today I picked up some Venison+mushroom sausages plus a pack of pheasant legs from these guys -can't wait to get cooking!
You can find the Farmers' market every Sunday from 10am-2pm in the square outside Walthamstow library, and more information on the full range of producers here: London Farmers' Markets - Walthamstow

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Lunch at Sketch

Beef carpaccio
I like to think of myself as a foodie, I love trying all kinds of exotic foods, discovering new flavours and unusual ingredients. Sadly I don't have an unlimited food budget so I normally have to limit myself to the more affordable end of the London restaurant price scale, however, it is definitely good to push the boat out every now and then! So I didn't take much convincing to use my recent birthday as the perfect excuse to book a day off work and try out some Michelin star dining. We went to Sketch, on Conduit street, a quirky and unpretentious place with a fantastic reputation for fine food. On arrival, we were given a quick tour around the various rooms including the impressive gallery room, described by our host as a 'video art installation dining experience', but what I can only describe as a huge, all-white room filled with white sofas and tables, with a giant psychedelic pacman-style video running all around the upper walls of the room. We were then led upstairs where the doors were opened to the magnificent Lecture room, run by head chef Pierre Gagnaire. The decor was at all times modern and unusual, a fascinating mixture of antique furniture and modern abstract art. The service was incredible, but unaccustomed as I am to fine dining, I did feel slightly ridiculous when I returned from the bathroom to find my napkin re-folded into an origami sculpture and a waiter rushing over to help tuck my chair in under me. The bathrooms by the way were equally crazy, a darkened chamber full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and crystalline spider webs.
Sea trout and shrimps with samphire
Now I must move onto the food!. We went for the gourmet lunch menu, which presented each person with four starters, a main course, two desserts, 1/2 bottle of wine and coffee for the very reasonable price of £48 a head. Everything was exquisitely presented, with the utmost care and attention to detail showing through in every dish. The photos here really don't do the food justice as I tried to hastily snap away without anyone noticing. My sea trout main course was amazing, a wonderful balance of the sweet fish with the salty samphire and the bitter Guiness jelly cubes. We left feeling full to the brim and very happy with the world.

Sketch Lecture Room and Library on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Thoughts on turning 30

 Today is a very special day for me. Today is my 30th birthday. For the last couple of years I have been slightly apprehensive about this moment, about leaving my twenties and my 'youth' behind, but as the fateful day grew closer I started to reflect on everything that I had experienced and acheived in the last ten years and began to feel a lot more at ease with the whole situation. I think if you can fill your life with as many happy and interesting experiences as possible then you don't need to fear the passing of time, just look back and think of all the good memories that you have created and the connections that you have made.
So here, in no particular order (apart from number 1!) are my top 20 memorable moments from my 20's.

1) Marrying the man of my dreams after five wonderful years together.
2) Buying our first flat together in Walthamstow.
3) Watching the sunrise over the Masaii Mara from a hot air balloon, peering down at a herd of giraffes galloping elegantly across the plain and a solitary lioness crouched drinking water from a stream.
4) Bathing in the plunge pool at the foot of Angel Falls, Venezuela, feeling the spray from the breathtaking kilometre-high cascade behind us.
5) Graduating with a first class honours degree in chemistry, the culmination of four years hard work and a lot of fun times.
6) Being offered my first proper job after graduation (The company where I still work!)
7) Watching mountain gorillas in Rwanda, scrambling up the side of a volcano to emerge onto a clearing where we watched in awe the majestic male silverback chewing on bamboo shoots while the baby gorillas swung on vines and tumbled in fluffy piles down the hill.
8) Spending four weekends at Barretstown, a beautiful and magical castle in Ireland, where children with terminal ilnesses and their families come for a weekend of theraputic recreation. Each time I have been there as a volunteer child carer has been a humbling, moving and heartwarming experience which I will never forget.
9) The spectacular view of Mount Fuji from our onsen spa on honeymoon in Japan.
10) Moving to London for the first time in 2004 and realising that I could never go back to live in some sleepy town or village.
11) Starting my own blog and discovering that people are interested in what I have to say!
12) Discovering a love for food and gastronomy, trying sushi for the first time, finding new restaurants, visiting secret supper clubs.
13) Buying my first car at the age of 22, a J-reg Ford Fiesta which I loved dearly but broke down on numerous occasions, most notably when the tyre blew out when I was driving up the M11 at 70mph.....and a few months later was broken into for someone to steal the radio.
14) Running a 10K with Paula Radcliffe. OK, so it was a charity run and Paula 'jogged' round in 40 minutes, but I still got to chat to her for a few seconds before she strode off into the distance. For me the real acheivement was getting my normally rather unfit self to the stage where I could happily run 10K without stopping (or dying).
15) Riding camels into the sand dunes of Morocco and spending the night under the stars.
16) Getting our cat Milo. When Jon and I went to the cat rescue centre and saw the fat grumpy cat  in the back room that no-one else wanted we knew we had to take him home.  Two years on he is a tiny bit less fat and still pretty grumpy.
17) Hiring a car and driving down highway 101 from San Francisco.
18) Staying best friends with Gemma + Kirsten throughout the whole decade and knowing that your best friends really will always be there for you!
19) Walking along a deserted beach in Thailand, riding elphants, rafting on bamboo rafts, learning how to make proper Thai green curry.
20) Spending the night in a buddhist temple at the top of a mountain near Kyoto, watching  geishas rush along the ancient streets.

Yep, its been a pretty good 10 years, I wonder what surprises the next 10 will have in store!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Vietnamese cookery class with Leluu

For the past couple of years, as part of my mission to seek out new and interesting dining experiences, I have been going to supper clubs in London. This is basically where someone opens up their home and transforms it into a mini restaurant for the night, and in exchange for a donation you are thrown together with other like-minded intrepid diners to enjoy a meal in a complete strangers living room. You get to hear about these places mainly by word of mouth, the best places flourishing though their good reputation and ending up over-subscribed every night. 
Beef Pho
The first supper club that I went to, back in late 2009 was Fernandez and Leluu in Hackney, shortly after they first started running. The food was fantastic, with the two chefs showcasing the best of their Vietnamese and Spanish heritages. I have tried several other supper clubs since, but always kept coming back to F&L every few months for the reliably excellent food. Uyen, the Vietnamese half of the pairing has gone solo now and still runs the supper clubs from her flat, along with numerous other projects such as a Vietnamese cookery class, that I persuaded Jon to try out with me yesterday. 
Summer Rolls
We spent the afternoon in Uyen's kitchen preparing and eating some of my favourite dishes such as Beef Pho, Bo La Lot (spicy beef in Betel leaves) and braised pork belly in cider and coconut juice. We learnt the proper way to balance all the elements of our dishes, and how to wrap the perfect summer roll. We also took a trip to the nearby Vietnamese supermarket, where I was able to stock up on all the essentials to recreate the dishes at home. It was a great afternoon, lots of fun and I definitely feel confident enough now to cook Vietnamese food for my next set of unsuspecting friends who come to visit! You can find out more about the cookery class and the supper club here: Love Leluu