25 December 2012

Can-tastic: the self-heating meal

We all know that cooking Christmas dinner can be a bit of a mission if you’re unprepared/hungover/just a terrible cook. So if you can’t really be bothered with it all this year, but still need to line your stomach before the binge drinking commences, the Hot Can self-heating meal is the answer to all your prayers!OK, so it might not be quite what your hungry guests are expecting, but if it prevents them from resorting to cannibalism at the dining table, everyone’s a winner, right?Hot Can's Christmas Dinner is the obvious option for this time of year, and we would have loved to have sampled it, but since they were sold out we settled for the Bangers & Beanz meal instead. 
Now, it’s fair to say we didn’t have particularly high expectations about this product. We were prepared for it to be bland at best and inedible at worst, but it was neither. To our surprise, it was actually very tasty and unexpectedly filling. The fact that we didn’t really need to do anything to it except peel back the lid was also a nice bonus. We had it as a side dish to our main meal but there’s a big enough portion size to easily satisfy one person.
Here’s how we rated it:Tastiness: 8/10 (There was no weird “novelty” taste due to it being self-heating. And if it was served up to you by someone else, it’s unlikely you’d ever guess it hadn’t been anywhere near a cooker).
Price: 7/10 (A can of Heinz beans & sausages is much cheaper, but considering this provides a hot, filling meal that you can eat just about anywhere, it’s decently priced at £3.99).
Ease of use: 10/10 (Very, very simple. No fuss, no muss).
All in all, there’s no faulting this product. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and for a self-heating meal that’s all you can ask for really! Just try not to be put off by the curious fizzing noise it makes while it’s “cooking”.The Hot Can's website's shop section is currently under construction, but in the meantime you can buy them from Harvey Nics for £3.99, which is where we stumbled across them. There are several varieties if you're after something a bit fancier than beans and sausages, but none of them really tickled our tastebuds, sadly. Hopefully the company will come up with some more adventurous varieties in the new year.That's all from us for now. Stay hungry and have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!x

A handy guide to boozing...

I saw this on Time Out last week: a guide to the best craft beer bars in London.

I've been to some of them before I started this blog: Brewdog; Camden Brewery; and the Old Red Cow amongst others.

Of course it's given me plenty of more ideas of where I can experience new drinks.

This stuff tastes Bile

A few weeks ago I was in my local off-licence and noticed this can of beer on sale:

Out of curisosity I bought it.

I had no idea what it was called, nor what sort if beer it was, but assumed it was a type of Ukrainian lager.

I was almost correct: it's actually a Ukranian wheat-beer, basically their version of Hoegaarden, and is pronoucned "Be-lay" (Ukrainian for "White"), and is made by Chernigivske.

In the unlikely event that you find it, I'd recommend buying it and giving it a try.

30 November 2012

Eurocrats encourage boozing

One of the first posts was a review of a bottle of sweet Moldovan red wine, called "Kagor".

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find in the shops, possibly due to where it is from.

Thankfully, today I read that the EU is likely to agree a trade-deal with Moldova next year to give them better access to the EU for their products.

As the piece points out, one of Moldova's main exports is wine.

When the agreement is signed, I guess that it will make it easier for me to get hold of Kagor!

11 November 2012

**Holiday special, part II** The Hangover

As T said, we went on holiday to Marseille at the end of August, and stuffed ourselves with lots of wonderful meals.  Naturally, we drank quite a lot of red wine and lager.

Of course, being us, we also brought back some bottles of booze:

  • Limoncello;
  • Creme de Cassis;
  • Absinthe


While we were in Marseille, we went on a day-trip to Monaco.

As to be expected, the place itself is full or posh people and expensive designer shops.

Happily, we stumbled upon a little off licence that had a wide variety of liqueurs.

After some discussion (but unfortunately, no free samples), we decided to buy a bottle of limoncello.

T had never previously tried limoncello, and it had been years since I had drank some, and so it was a good decision.

The drink itself was very lemony(!), and at 40% alcohol was quite strong, possibly stronger than what we expected.

Creme de Cassis

While we were waiting for our flight back to London, we decided to go look through the airport's duty-free section.

Unsurprisingly, it had a wide selection of spirits.

In the end we decided on buying a bottle of creme de cassis, i.e. blackberry liqueur, mainly because neither of us had any before.

This was lovely.  It was a clear sweet, blackberry taste to it, but not overpowering, and at 20% wasn't too strong.

The only downside was that the thickness meant that it was like drinking syrup - you could only have one shot of it own its own, and so a mixer was essential. Luckily for us, we had a easy supply of lemonade and we recommend mixing the two together.


You may not be aware, but Marseilles is a port city, and so is full of little touristy shop that have a maritime theme.

One of these was also a place that sold nothing but alcohol made by the Pernod people.

T decided to buy a little bottle of pale blue absinthe (I didn't want any because I don't like the taste of aniseed).

I don't think she saw the "Green fairy", and she didn't take it from a spoon with a sugar cube, but I know she liked it and would buy some more.

The only down side it that we don't appear to have taken any photos of our selections. I guess this means that we'll have to go back...

Foodie tube map

This is just a quick mini-post to urge you to check out this awesome London restaurant tube map over at Can't wait for it to be expanded to zone 3, and specifically, the Bounds Green area! Great work, @chrispople


5 November 2012

**Holiday special**

Hello again world!

It's been a while, hasn't it? How have you been? You'll be pleased to know we haven't fallen off the face of the planet or relocated to the Land of Chocolate to chomp on edible dogs, and we are still alive. Yay!

Life has tended to get in the way a little bit over the past few months, but we are aiming to be a bit more frequent with the blog updates from this point on.

Much has happened since our last post. For a start, we've been lucky enough to visit three different countries, and as a result, have enjoyed some very delectable delicacies. So, although we usually just focus on London, we thought it might be nice to revisit our holiday adventures - if only because it's a nice sunny distraction from rain, wind and constant sneezing fits.

Right then. As you'd expect, Morocco (cous cous!) and Belgium (waffles!) were great for tasty, if slightly predictable, cuisine. Sadly, we had very little time to explore Morocco so didn't really get to taste much authentic food. We did, however, manage to grab a few bottles of Moroccan wine before we headed back. Shocking, I know.

Looking Rosè: Vin Du Maroc.
Our wine of choice, Boulaouane, was a sweet-ish Rosè  with a serious afterkick. It wouldn't be a stretch to say it's probably one of the nicest Rosès we'd ever had  - and we've got through a fair few bottles of Rosè in our time! 

Our daytrip to Brussels was also a lot of fun. Aside from the sightseeing, it was all about the chocolate. And the mussels. And the beer. We'd definitely be up for a return visit. 

The culinary highlight of the year (so far), however, has got to be our week-long trip to Marseille. What a city! Marseille is known for being an enticingly exotic mixture of people and cultures, but the same description could be equally be applied to the cuisine.

The portions were always huge, often bigger than the monster portions we enjoyed in the States, and great value for money.

Mega Salad V Hungry Gareth!
We soon realised that in Marseille anything goes - and that applies to the food as much as everything else. Dinner was the meal we looked forward to the most, as our hotel provided us with a continental breakfast, usually leaving us too full for lunch. On the odd occasion that we were a bit peckish at midday, an ever-dependable croque monsieur for lunch (often accompanied by a mountain of chips or salad) was great for a filling but super-cheap meal, which kept us going until early evening. 

If you ever find yourself in the centre of Vieux Port, La Cure Gourmande chocolatiers is worth a visit for the sheer selection on offer. The boxes are adorned with some very quaint - and some might say, creepy - packaging, but don't let that put you off. Remember, it's what's inside that counts - and in this case, what's inside is bite-sized pieces of pure chocolate heaven.  *Drools*
Hands off my chocs, creepy kid.

We were lucky to be based in the heart of the city, in an area jam-packed with great waterside restaurants, so we were never stuck for affordable options. Our hotel also served some incredible food, the most quirky of which seemed to have come direct from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. 

Quirky pudding!
With Marseille being a busy port city, seafood was on the menu most evenings and we were never disappointed. From tender sea bass to juicy prawns, we were truly spoilt. 
Weapon of (sea) bass destruction
The highlight, though, was sampling traditional Boulliabasse, a dish that originated in Marseille, but which has become extremely popular across France and other European countries. It's a simple stew, packed with at least three types of fish and peppered with mild spices such as saffron. Basic though it may be, it's also deceptively flavoursome and hearty, not to mention aromatic. Be warned though, it is quite a messy dish to eat, so have your bib at the ready.

Boulliabasse. Bibs at the ready!
Unsurprisingly, we returned from our trip with quite a lot of booze too! I'll let G fill you in on that...

It's been a great year for travelling and tasting delicious food in its natural habitat, but we'll be staying a bit closer to home now until next year. We're just as spoilt for awesome food here in London though, so there'll be plenty to write about in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

Stay hungry,

T x

27 February 2012

Sonko Orange

I bought these simply because I needed to get change for the supermarket trolley:

It's a Polish chocolate coated rice cracker (English Google Translate version).

There is a definite chocolate-orange tinge to the chocolate topping, while the rest of it tastes like any other rice cracker.

Czech & Slovak Bar/Gambrinus Excelent

On Saturday I went to the Czech & Slovak Bar in West Hampstead for a friend's birthday.

It's a pub which was set up in WWII for refugees from Czechoslovakia.

The decor is a bit strange: from the outside it looks like a suburban house, but inside it is like a hotel and various memorabilia from the old Czechoslovakia as well as both the Czech Rep. and Slovakia.

One of these was a poster of the ice hockey player Jaromír Jágr, who had an appalling late-80s/early-90s-style curly/permed mullet.

We ordered food: I had their beef goulash; Tola had a chicken schnitzel. I was a bit disappointed - while the goulash was perfectly edible, it was a bit bland and it came with what appeared to be uncooked baguette slices, which the menu described as "dumplings".

Naturally, I also had some Czech lager: I had a Budvar (aka proper, not US Budweiser) and also a bottle of this:

Gambrinus Excelent.

As to be expected, it is a Czech pilsner, and so is very nice to drink and goes down well. There's nothing - as far as I could tell - to particularly distinguish it from any other pilsner, but given that pilsners are generally decent drinks, that's not a bad thing.

Bruschette Maretti: Tomato, olives & oregano

A couple of nights ago, while heading home I stopped off in a shop next to my Tube station.

I fancied some crisps, and saw these on display:

It's a crisp done in the style of a sliced mini French-bread.

In spite of the name, this product actually comes from a company based in Bulgaria*.

I quite enjoyed these: they are quite spicy, and have a similar taste to salsa.

What may also be of interest from a linguistic point of view, is the many languages in which the ingredients are listed. These included ArmenianAzerbaijani, and Georgian, none of which you tend to see on food sold within the UK.

* Their name ends in AD, which is the Bulgarian equivalent to a PLC.


A couple of weeks ago I saw a bottle of mysterious red wine in an eastern European food shop near our Tube station.

I had no idea what it was called because the front label is in Russian*:

However, I am reliably informed that it is known as "Kagor", and that it comes from the Château Vartley winery in Moldova.

It's quite a sweet red wine, but not too sweet.  It's probably best described as a dessert wine, although the Russian label states that it is a cabernet sauvignon.

* Thankfully the back cover was in German, which described it as "south Moldovan red wine".

23 February 2012

Hello world!

We are a couple who live in north London and we love food and drink, especially the latter...

We decided to start this blog so that we could share our discoveries as we eat-and-drink our way around one of the world's culinary hotspots.

We'll be mostly sampling non-UK food and drinks, but won't rule out occasionally covering more native offerings.

It'll be a mixture of restaurant reviews, summaries of snack foods, and our humble-but-completely-accurate opinions on any obscure-but-apparently-interesting drinks that we stumble upon.

We want the site to feel like a giant, global dinner party.  Feel free to join in with the discussions and leave comments. Also if you have any recommendations, we'll be glad to hear them, so please let us know!