“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No Finer Place For Sure

Today is my birthday. I am 45.

I don't feel 45.

In fact I feel pretty damn good.

My sister and Laura took me off for a birthday lunch. I wasn't told where I was going, but I had an inkling. As it turned out, I was correct. I knew I was in for a serious blowout, because my sister very earnestly told me yesterday that I was not to eat any breakfast. I did as I was told, and boy am I glad I did.

We went to a place in Ashford called the Downtown Diner.

At first glance it doesn't look particularly different from any other restaurant, does it? Apart, that is, from the wall in the outside parking area.

But as soon as one steps inside, it becomes a sea of Americana. This is why they brought me here.

It's a bit blurry, but the posters behind the bar are Breakfast At Tiffany's on the left and The Wizard Of Oz on the right.
The walls are covered with classic movie posters from the golden age of cinema...

And the menu contains some amazing items...

I seriously considered the Spotted Dick, I really did.

I AM reading that right, aren't I? A 24-oz steak? Yes.

Even the kids' menu had some enticing items.
Anyway, it came time to order, and since it was my birthday, I kinda owed it to myself and my readership, all 5 of you, to have the (gulp) MegaBurger... two 1/2 lb burgers with cheese and bacon on a bun, with fries... and a trip to the salad bar. Holy hell.

Well, my trip to the salad bar was good... couscous on the bottom, corn, onions, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, beetroot, and a piece of crusty baguette.
But then comes the burger. OMG. What have I let myself in for?

This thing is a monster.

So I manfully waded into this beast like Guy Fieri. It took some doing, but I ate the whole thing. The only thing left on my plate was some cress.

SO my sister, who had obviously planned something because she was talking secretively with the waitresses before we ordered, says "Well, can we squeeze a dessert in?". Of course we can. Who did she think she was talking to?
What did she have?
Some chocolate ice cream, with a heapin' hoppin' helpin' of whipped cream.

Laura went for the Banoffee pie, which was barely visible under its layer of whipped cream and sprinkles.

This is what I had - the Knickerbocker Glory. Layers of fruit, jelly and ice cream topped with a mountain of whip and sprinkles. Except when it was brought to me, it looked like this...

Happy Birthday to me!
Excellent food, good fun, good atmosphere, and I am definitely going back for that 24oz steak.

In other food-related news: I got a shower cap for my birthday. Shaped like a Christmas pudding.

Think I'm kidding?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pulling Mussels

I decided today to have a bite of lunch at Cafe Rouge, for two reasons. Firstly, my girlfriend Laura had not eaten there (except once, a long time ago). Second, I had a coupon! Yes, my chums, and if you hurry, you can get one too, at http://www.caferougeoffers.co.uk/. This current 2 for 1 on main meals offer expires on the 28th.

Alright, here are the pics. First of all I want to say that they've really done an amazing job of making the interior look authentically French.

Of course the meal began with my ubiquitous coffee.

Oh, and a little bread. Even the butter is French.

Laura had a delicious Boeuf Bourguignon...

I was going to have an 8oz rare steak, the Bavette, but they had just sold the last one. As always, though, I had a backup, so I wasn't disappointed. Mussels it was. There were three choices - classic Moules Marinière, the spicy tomatoey Moules Provençal, or my choice, the Asian-influenced Moules Thailandaise...

Yum. An easy 5 yums out of 5. Delicate, with flavours of coconut milk, lemongrass, coriander and lime and a chili kick to finish. After I ate them all I mopped up the sauce with about half a baguette. Completely delish, and with the coupon, this one-kilo serving was free!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A while back I posted an entry entitled It Ain't Easy Bein' Cheesy, concerning Planters Restaurant inside Tenterden Garden Centre. Today we ventured once again to this fine establishment. Here, my friends, are the pictures to prove it.

One of the daily specials was this fabulous celeriac and leek pie. It sounded so unusual I had to try it. It was really terrific. But that wasn't all. Oh no, because it came with a side dish of veggies...

These veggies. There are green beans, cabbage, some peas, and a wonderful carrot and swede mash. Swede is known as rutabaga in the States.
My sister had a big ol' baked potato smothered in cheese and baked beans, with a massive side salad...
Laura had a Baker also, hers had cheese and spring onions on it.... after a while of course it was time for dessert. Sis and I had a look at the dessert board while Laura decided against it and went to look at some snakes.

I'm sorry, but if it's a choice between looking at slithering reptiles and eating this beautiful pear & ginger crumble in a sea of delicious custard, then crumble wins out for me every time.

Sis went for the chocolate cake and ice cream. And really, who could blame her?
Well, there you have it folks. A good time had by all, even the snake lovers amongst us.

Monday, November 22, 2010


No, not the Juliette Binoche/Johnny Depp movie, but an equally heavenly place I found in Maidstone... Hotel Chocolat.

Hotel Chocolat is located in Fremlin Walk, just off Week Street. If there was a support group for chocolate addicts called Chocoholics Anonymous, and a member decided they were going to fall off the wagon, go for broke and do it big time, this would be the place to do it.

While my beloved was in Jane Norman across the way, shopping for girly stuff, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to this paradise of chockiness. As I walked in I felt lighter than air and angels sang a chorus of "Chocolate, baby". I approached the friendly lady who was walking around with a large silver tray with tongs on it and a selection of chocs. She smiled and sweetly sang, "Gingerbread truffle?".
"Why, thank you, kind lady," I replied, "I don't mind if I do."
I popped a wee truffle into my mouth and was engulfed in paroxysms of cacao-induced ecstasy the likes of which I had never experienced. As I floated around the store I took pictures... good idea, huh? Wanna see?

First, there were these lovely slabs of chocolate, including some festive ones...

You can't really tell from the pictures, but these are not your average choccie-bar size. They are about the size of an 8x10 photo, and weigh 500g each.

On the left is Rocky Road Slab.


 Then there were some other holiday-themed items...

Chilli Penguins, The Christmas Dinner, Winter Treasures and Tiddly Reindeers.
Then, just as I was (reluctantly) leaving (I say reluctantly because I had had three chocolate samples by this time), I noticed a shelf at the back of some more unusual items...

Chocolate & Black Truffle Tapenade.
And the one that just about blew my ever-lovin' mind...

Yes. You read that right.

You can't really see it from the picture, but these are practically black in colour.
As I left, I turned to the friendly lady and said, "Oh, I'll be back."


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