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Lunch at “Ramsays

March 30, 2011 3 comments

As most of you know already I went to the UK in March for a week on holiday with my girlfriend Gloria. I decided to book a lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s first restaurant, the “Ramsay” in South Kensington. It’s a 3 Michelin star restaurant and neither me nor Gloria have ever been to any kind of upper class restaurant like this one.

This will be a precise tale of what went on that day and I hope to remember everything that happened.

We arrived 20 minutes early so we decided to have a walk near the Thames. We were both well dressed for the occasion. Maybe too much even. We saw people at the restaurant that looked like pimps with open shirts and chest hair poking out but that was an exception.

As the booking comes closer and closer my stomach starts to clench up with tension… I know it’s weird right… but having never been to anything so “upper class” you start asking yourself some questions like, which fork do I use first, how should I sit or how do I ask where the toilet is.

We enter the restaurant. It’s pretty small, probably 8-9 tables. A woman greets us and asks us our reservation name. I hear “reservation number” so I fumble for an answer and tell her I didn’t have a number only to realize a second later that she asked for my name. Well that started out well.

She takes my coat and my bag. She takes Gloria’s coat but not the bag. Never take a woman’s bag 😀 !

She walks us to the table. It’s a pretty small round table and I make Gloria sit and the waitress makes me sit. I was now in a psychedelic trance of stress mixed with what the f. and revising in my head what I would say to the sommelier (I didn’t want to buy wine because it would’ve raped my pockets).

So in walks the sommelier. You can tell they’re sommeliers because they have a golden brooch depicting grapes on their jackets. He asks us if we would like to see the wine list. I decline saying we won’t have any wine. He asks us if it’s a problem with alcohol used in the menu but I confirm that it’s not a problem and that we just didn’t want wine today. He then asks us if we would like a special kind of non-alcoholic grape juice to give us that “wine aftertaste” without the alcohol. I ask Gloria and she says no. He then proceeds to explain (everything off by heart) about 50 different fruit juices they had. There were juices that ranged from exotic to home made. We ordered 2 home-made orange juices to start off with and a bottle of fizzy water. The orange juice he brings is actually really tasty and you can really taste the freshness.

Another waiter arrives and asks us “Who is hosting the table?”. I answer “I am”. He jokes about who is in command between me and Gloria so I joke back that usually she is but today she’s letting me be in control. I receive the menu with the prices and she gets a clean menu with no prices. There’s a Prestige Menu (£120 minimum per person), the A la Carte Menu (£90 minimum per head) and the Lunch Menu (£45 per head). He starts explaining all the three menus completely, what the specials are and some dish that has been on the menu since day 1.

We already know what menu we’ll be ordering from.

Here is what I ordered:

Starter: Salad of Szechuan pork, tiger prawn, chargrilled, pickled and marinated vegetables, Asian herbs, daikon dressing

Main Course: Shin of Angus beef braised in red wine served ‘en croûte’ with confit potatoes and mushrooms à la crème, parmesan emulsion

Dessert: Pear tarte Tatin with walnut ice cream and shaved Colston Bassett

And Gloria ordered:

Starter: Quail and wild mushroom Pithivier with endive, celeriac and toasted walnuts salad

Main Course: Roasted fillet of halibut sustainably farmed in the Shetland islands with pommes boulangère and bourguignon garnish

Dessert: Banana parfait, peanut butter mousse and bitter chocolate sandwich with caramelized bananas

The sommelier brings us the bottle of fizzy water and I notice that while he serves it to Gloria he turns the bottle so that she can see the label. He then serves me and turns the label again towards me. It’s obviously something that he would do with the wine but it was a nice touch.

I decide I need the loo. I sit up and a waiter shows me the way without me even asking. There were about 20 little properly rolled hand towels all lined up on top of the sink with soap and moisturizer. The toilet was very clean and the toilet paper had its last square sticking out and folded into an arrow shape. I soon realized every time someone went into the toilet and used the toilet paper someone came in and had to re-fold the toilet paper into an arrow shape. Made me chuckle.

I wash my hands and then dry them with the towel. I had to throw it into a bin. Something quite unnatural but I would’ve hoped they would come in and put it somewhere else later and so they did… I checked.

I go back to the table and the waitress sits me down. I found it pretty ridiculous that a woman waitress would help me sit down but that’s how it is.

I tell Gloria I’d show her the way to the toilet but a waiter interrupts me and shows her the way.

While Gloria was in the toilet the waiter brings in a pre-starter. It is a normal plate with a minute battered ball of something in the middle… NOTHING else on it. He then proceeds to fill the rest of the plate with some kind of soup from a gravy bowl. I’m sorry if I don’t know what it was but he explained everything off by heart and I truly can’t remember all the stuff he said to me. He then put one of those “chef-plate-covers” you know the ones they use to keep the food warm, on Gloria’s battered mini-ball and told me he’d keep the soup in the kitchen to keep it warm why we waited for the “Madame”.

I patiently waited for Gloria and as soon as she came out of the toilet I could hear the waiters whispering “LA MADAME, LA MADAME” and running off to get the soup. She sat down and served her soup with the mini-ball. It was obviously quite divine.

This is when we realize the waiter might actually be Italian. We noticed because while he was explaining the mini-ball dish he said RICOTTA in a very Italian accent. We didn’t say anything.

Another waiter comes to the table with a silver tray of different types of bread for us to choose. There was potato bread, sesame bread, wholemeal bread and many other types. We heard the table next to us ask if they made the bread at the restaurant. They said they have a bakery that bakes it for the restaurant with a specific recipe. Every time our bread plate was empty he would run up to the table to see if we wanted more. The same happened when our glass was nearly empty. The sommelier would run to our table to fill the glasses full again.

In the end, the only thing we touched was our cutlery and our glass. Everything else was taken care of.

After each course the waiter would clean the table from breadcrumbs with a special kind of knife. He’d scrape them off onto his little cleaning plate.

It was interesting to see how the food would come up to the table. Me and Gloria ordered different things but they always came at the same exact time. A waiter would come out of the kitchen with the plates on a silver tray. He would wait at the entrance of the dining hall for the table waiter. He would then proceed to finish the plates with the last touches and say “Let’s go!”. They would both then proceed to the table and serve us the food.

The Schuezan pork with the prawns was really good. It was a cold salad kind of plate where you could mix and match pork and prawns with some vegetable to give you a different type of taste each time. Gloria’s Quail was excellent too. Presentation was amazing. There was a small quail leg on a potato puré all really well decorated. Mine was simple enough.

The main course was excellent too. My angus shin came and I didn’t know what to do with it. It was a plate with a cylindrical column made of french pastry with a wafer sitting on top. The wafer had the Ramsay restaurant logo on it. I realized that the only way to eat this would be to destroy it. I broke into it. It was laid out in layers all topped with daikon dressing (not that I know what that is). There was a layer with potato, then minced angus shin then potato, then angus shin and then spinach. It was really something amazing. Never had anything so well designed and tasty at the same time.

Gloria had the halibut. I had a taste of it and it was really nice. It was topped with a wonderful sauce made with tomatoes and bacon too which sounds weird but she says the combination was really good.

Time for desserts. I had the pear tarte tatin. I’ve always been a fan of Apple tarte tatins so I knew what I was getting. It was very good. It was served warm with some vanilla ice-cream. Gloria had the banana dessert but she said it was nothing exceptional.

We then met the Maitre D Jean-Claude Breton. I knew him already from his appearances on various Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows so it was pretty nice to see that he’s really down to earth. He chatted with us to see how everything was going, where we were from, what we’d be visiting. He also complimented us for having beaten the French rugby team in the six nations the week before. Here’s Jean-Claude:

After our desserts he brought us some chocolate balls stuck on a metal frame that looked like a small tree. The chocolate was pinned to the tree branches. We ordered 2 Espresso’s to end our lunch.

While drinking the coffee (excellent, which is rare in England), we see a waiter coming towards us with a fuming container. It was sending out smoke like it was on fire. It reminded me of those incense diffusers used in churches. He set it on the table and the Maitre D’ explained to us that it had balls of strawberry ice-cream inside with liquid ice that made the smoke come out but that it was totally safe to pick up with our fingers.

The lunch ended with the cheque and with €155 less in my pocket. N.B. The coffee came to £5 each. The orange juice came to £5 each.

All in all we loved it. We came out of the restaurant happy and full. We thought we would get out of the restaurant and go to McDonalds or something to fill our stomachs but it was really surprising how much we ate (not to mention how WELL we ate).

Definetly something I would recommend doing if you want to experience something different.

o/

Huge Goat

February 27, 2011 2 comments

I went back home this weekend and was greeted by my dad and my dog. We decided to take the dog for a stroll and my father told me he’d show me this goat he saw in the countryside… I was in for quite a surprise!

It looks like it's stuffed...

But it isn't!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0/

 

Categories: Random Tags: , ,

The day Riqz lost £5

February 11, 2011 4 comments

Hello everyone. This is just a short post today, and is a lesson about never ever challenging a slightly drunken Englishman to a dare in a pub. Some time ago, I was in a pub. I bet you didn’t see that coming did you, quite the twist in the story already. I can’t say it was for the ambience or for the taste of the fine wines, it was mainly because Weatherspoons is a chain of pubs which usually does the cheapest beer on the High Street. I’m classy like that, but let’s get to the £5.

Myself and Riqz would therefore often go to this pub, with or without the company of some other friends. The people we’d go with would usually vary, because I suspect they often had better things to do than be seen with me. I digress. How did Riqz lose £5 I didn’t hear you cry.

Now I don’t know if you get tartare sauce in Italy. However, in the UK it’s eaten a lot with fish. It’s basically vinegar mixed with an indeterminate amount of vegetables which turns into some sort of foul smelling gloopy mess, which if you go and Google it, will look like white sick. It’s lovely, seriously. I can’t help it I don’t work for the British Food Council (if such a place exists) so I can’t describe food in a loving way. However, such was my cunning that I was pretending it was vile.

Riqz was by now becoming well versed in British culture, for example he had significantly lowered his expectations of girls and was even beginning to find some of the female patronage of Weatherspoons attractive. God bless the power of beer eh?

Oh right, yeah the £5. So we were sitting in the pub, and basically Riqz bet I couldn’t eat a whole pot of tartare sauce, but I so did. I won £5. It’s not much of an anecdote, but what’ya gonna do?

The lesson here kids is never assume that the person sitting opposite you doesn’t like vinegar based condiments. Sometimes they do, and the crafty ones will deny it to profit from it.

The colour Red, PSP’s and Tablets

February 10, 2011 6 comments

A few weeks ago I went to the post office to pay a bill and I found it real funny how this woman’s hair was exactly the same colour of her Jacket.

So yeah that was interesting. Especially trying to take a picture in a crammed post-office making me look like some kind of perv.

I also managed to film my turtles doing a kind of mating dance ritual. Experts tell me it’s either something a male does to a female to attract her or it’s something a male does to another male before they kill each other. Since they are both still alive and well, I’m hoping it’s the first hypothesis.

Here’s the video with some bonus Muse song in the background:

This month I’ve also been very excited about the new PSP2 which was announced by Sony. So excited I decided to finish off some old PSP games in my collection. That includes God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Riviera, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Little Big Planet, Final Fantasy Crisis Core, GTA Chinatown Wars and the list goes on way too much. I’d rather link you my (shameful) complete backlog of videogames: http://www.backloggery.com/riqz

The new psp is a gamer’s dream in theory. I mean, big screen, DUAL ANALOG STICKS, front and rear capacitive screens, quad core cpu, mic, front and rear cameras, Wi-Fi, 3G. Hopefully they won’t be concentrating on simple PS3 ports like they showed at their conference. Crossing my fingers for this one.

Moving on to other news I’m also going to be visiting the UK again in March with my girlfriend Gloria. I’ll be meeting Bludgenous (our new co-author), Brodos and the gang, hopefully Harlow, Matthew, Ruth and all the Uni gang.

I’ll also be bringing Gloria to the Ramsay Restaurant in Chelsea to get all my money ripped out of my wallet. So much so that I had a nightmare with Gordon in which I was supposed to cook some Italian food for him and failing miserably only to be told to fuck off and stick that shitty food up my arse.

This month’s dilemma concerns tablets. I’ve decided I want to buy a tablet this year and sell my netbook. I’ve been pretty sure about buying an iPad2 until a few days ago. Seeing the new Motorola Xoom has really made me think about what I’d like to buy. Spending around €800 for a tablet really brings on a few questions and the Xoom is definetly looking avantguarde compared to the current iPad.

The Xoom is really looking good sporting Android 3.0. It’s really looking like a great OS. The real question is…Will it have a great battery? I really want these batteries to last a long time and for now… only the iPad has that kind of thing with 10+hours of battery life in its shell.

I’m going to wait out and see what Apple present at their upcoming keynote and then make up my mind.

Lettera al Comune di Budoia

January 25, 2011 1 comment

Sorry for all non-italian speaking readers but it’s quite an important post for me. It’s a letter sent to the Budoia Town hall. The town in which my parents will live their retirement not to mention where my father was born. They want to keep creating housing estates by cementifying the countryside.

Ciao a tutti,

ho ricevuto le e-mail di aggiornamento alle riunioni a cui sono mancato causa la mia partenza.

Anche se da lontano, vorrei far arrivare la mia voce che è anche quella di un cittadino nato a S. Lucia e che fra poco verrà ad abitarvi stabilmente. Sono inorridito all’idea della potenziale colata di cemento che potrebbe ricoprire tutto il lato sud-est di S. Lucia. Di scempi ne ho già visti tanti nel mondo. Cerchiamo di essere più propositivi verso l’ambiente e verso il futuro pensando anche ai ns. figli ed eventuali nipoti. Non roviniamo per favore quel poco che ci circonda. Vogliamo togliere veramente tutti i prati per far colare il cemento? Allora ribattezziamo anche il paese, lo chiamerei “S. Lucia del cemento” o la via Gluck di S. Lucia o qualcosa di simile .
Bisogna combattere l’ idea di cementificazione selvaggia che ha portato sul lastrico intere nazioni (vds. ultime Portogallo e Spagna non appena è scoppiata la bolla immobiliare).

Le motivazioni per non edificare ulteriormente a S. Lucia sono note e validissime come già rilevato durante le precedenti riunioni:
1) Se vogliamo recuperare il centro storico occorre incentivare tale recupero e non aprire ad ulteriori aree fabbricabili che creerebbero solo dei quartieri dormitorio. Ed è qui il punto centrale su cui bisogna insistere con i ns. amministratori.
2) L’attuale popolazione del comune di Budoia di ca 2500 persone è più che sufficiente al territorio e se vogliamo lasciarla incrementare fino a ca 3000 persone basta l’incentivazione al recupero del centro storico prima che questi ne diventi invece un ghetto a causa delle continue costruzioni periferiche. So che non è facile recepire incentivi ma è questa la strada da percorrere.

Per quanto riguarda l’eventuale utilizzo per cave di amianto etc oppure di inceneritori, non scherziamo per favore. Mi auguro proprio che affiori un po’ di buon senso in tutti i cittadini ed anche alle nostre amministrazioni comunali, provinciali e regionali e che concordino unanimemente che ciò può essere fatto soltanto in zone molto isolate e lontanissime da quartieri abitativi allo scopo di evitare eventuali e inevitabili inquinamenti.

Occorrono delle motivazioni più valide per salvaguardare il ns. territorio? Non mi sembra, è già stato saccheggiato sufficientemente da renderlo irriconoscibile a chi ci viene periodicamente.

Infine, riguardo al progetto per creare una piazza a S. Lucia, appoggio pienamente l’idea dello studio da parte di neo architetti prospettata con l’Università di Sassari. Personalmente offro già la mia disponibilità ad ospitarne uno (a partire da settembre prossimo), magari straniero visto che io e mia moglie ce la caviamo con l’inglese ed anche con qualche altra lingua.

Mi auguro, pure se assente, che la mia voce venga riportata alle prossime riunioni. Per favore non cancelliamo già ora con le nostre mani il futuro.

Un caro saluto a tutti.

Bludgenous has connected

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Hello there!

The eagle eyed among you will notice that I’ve been kindly invited to co-author this blog. This is just a little in the way of an introductory post while I settle in here, admiring the wallpaper and putting my feet up by the fire. So, gather round, gather round and I’ll tell you a story of utter tedium which is my life.

I’m from London and I’ve known Riqz for over 6 years now, having met early on at university. The first time I met Riqz was in the first couple of weeks at university as he was friends with another Italian chap whom I was living with in halls. We bonded (in a heterosexual, manly way, I hasten to add) over beer, our seemingly perpetual inability to successfully converse successfully with ladies and the fact that his new Nokia phone was able to play the original Game Boy Super Mario Bros. This last point was particularly important, as despite being in our first weeks at university and being surrounded by a plethora of beautiful, and frankly horny, young ladies, we spent some time in the pub remembering where the mushroom power up was and which pipes had the secret coin filled chambers in them. This kind of behaviour would eventually lead to a dramatic increase in gaming time, but that’s a story for another day.

honey bee on a flower

Now then I’m not quite sure where I’m going to take these blog posts at present, however I’m sure there will be no small part in reminiscing about some of our finer moments whilst at university as they were indeed the best days of my life. Now if that sounds terribly self-indulgent, well it kind of is, because that’s what blogs are for right? Seriously though, I hope to make it an amusing read for you all as a lot of the shenanigans were tragically funny, in no small part due to my ineptitude in coping with modern life and generally being a bit of a tit. I’ll probably jump about chronologically, writing stories and anecdotes as and when I remember them. I’ll also pepper it with my more recent experiences of generally not understanding people, because the general public are an ongoing mystery to me. Oh, and plenty of rants about public transport too.

We’ll see how it goes, as I’m sure I know many of you the readership already, and if I don’t know you, then you can listen to the ever-so-slightly unhinged commentary from a vaguely eccentric Englishman.

I felt the need to add an image to the blog, and I’m not really creative in that way, so here’s a picture of a bee on a flower I took in my garden last summer. Lovely. Irrelevant loveliness.

Categories: Random Tags: , ,

The Amazon Kindle 3G Review

January 13, 2011 2 comments

A few months ago I bought one of those new Amazon Kindle e-book readers everyone’s raving about… Well ok… Not everyone.

The Kindle 3G

I always had my eye on these new e-ink e-book readers but they used to cost quite a few pounds so I never really ended up buying one.

Recently, maybe thanks to the whole new tablet market, the kindle price got slashed and I bought one for something like 180 dollars shipping included. If you live in Italy, like me, there’s no way to buy one from amazon.co.uk or .de or .fr or .it as it will automatically redirect you to the american amazon.com website.

Upon receiving the kindle it came in a simple but sturdy amazon box with a simple leaflet explaining how to start it up. First thing i did was try to take of the thin sheet of plastic these kind of gadgets have on the screen when they are new… you know that thin plastic layer on your new phone’s screen or on your new iPod. To my dismay it was a trap!

There was no screen protector. What looked like a FAKELY written phrase (you know the fake screen printed on a thin sheet of plastic to act as an Ikea-style product demo) saying “please attach your kindle to a pc usb port to charge it” wasn’t fake at all. This was my first ever experience with E-ink technology. I was truly amazed.

The new Kindle screen looks like paper. Absolutely no distinction. It has no backlight it has amazing contrast… Damn this thing is like…MAGIC.

I bought the 6″ screen Wi-Fi version (i don’t see why anyone in the world would buy a 3G data plan version) which is the size of a normal paperback book page. I quickly pop it on my pc (immediately recognized by Windows 7) and register it to my amazon account. I am then given a list of free un-copyrighted books that I can download. Such old classics as Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, The Mysterious Island and many others. I immediately downloaded Treasure Island to try it out.

The feeling the Kindle gives you is just what you would feel reading a book but better. There’s no screen glare that you can have with iPhones or iPads and the Kindle is very light so it won’t strain your hands while reading in bed like a book usually does to me. Another plus is that there’s no more of that easy page/hard page while reading on your side. Depending on what side i’m lying on there’s an easy page (where the side of the book rests on the bed) and a hard page (when you have to hold the whole book up to read the other page with your hand turning into a Dr.Zoidberg claw), making me toss and turn in bed like a maniac. Glad that’s gone…

Amazon offers an amazing variety of e-books so you’re going to find pretty much everything you want, except more obscure books. Nonetheless it has accepted any e-book format i’ve been throwing at it including .azw (obviously), .epub, .mobi and .pdf so you can buy an e-book from anywhere else on the internet and pop it on your kindle by dragging and dropping through the usb cable. If your e-book is unsupported you can send it to your kindle email and it will be converted into a usable format and sent automatically to your Kindle.

Speaking of transfering e-books to the kindle, Amazon does a great job with what they call “Whispernet”. When you buy an e- book off amazon.com it will ask you where you want it sent. You can send it to your registered kindle, your iPhone, your Android phone or even your Kindle app on your PC. By simply connecting your Kindle to your Wi-Fi network you can sync all your items with a push of a button. Not only does it sync all your books, it also syncs all your highlights, popular highlights by other people and what page you were on last time you read the book so that you can pick right up from where you left if you want to read from your iphone or from another PC.

One of the nicest perks you get on the Kindle (and on most ebook readers for that matter) is that you can move your cursor right next to a word you don’t know and it will give you a quick definition on the internal dictionary and if that’s not enough it’ll let you search it on google, wikipedia or anywhere else you want on the internet. I’ve never been the kind of guy to pick up a dictionary while reading so this is a great addition.

There are a few drawbacks to the Kindle and I believe it isn’t just a Kindle problem… With a paperback book you can buy it and read it. The best thing about paperback books is that if you like them you can tell other people about it and do something that used to be regarded as granted… LEND IT.  Unfortunately Amazon and many other e-book retailers have put DRM protection on all of the e-books they sell. This is absolute bullcrap because I wanted to lend an e-book i bought to my mother recently and realised the only way was to make her buy it again for her kindle… Which to me sounds stupid. I know this DRM crap is all about stopping pirates but come on!

Apparently Amazon is working on a “Lending” option for e-books but they still haven’t enabled it for European users.

I also noticed that the price of e-books is variable. Most of the ones i’ve seen cost more than their paperback brother. Some people say other books cost more than their e-book version. Nonetheless I’ve always paid something more for my e-book than I would have paid for my paperback which does piss me off a bit.

The Kindle is a great e-book reader then… yes… but unfortunately for me, it’s quite a nightmare for manga afficionados.

Manga on the Kindle

Not because you can’t read them… not at all… but because of the tedious convertion you have to go through. I haven’t found any legitimate source to BUY e-manga. Not the ones I like anyway so I had to go and find illegal scans. After downloading the scans you have to convert them into something kindle-friendly with a program called Mangle (Manga+Kindle aaaaah) which isn’t really always 100% perfection. It sometimes mixes up page numbers and you end up having to delete all your converted images and start again. I have officially given up on converting manga scans for the Kindle. Too much time and not much reward. You can read this if you are interested.

The Kindle has some other minor and hidden features such as an experimental (but very good) internet browser, a minesweeper game, a text-to-speech reader and an automatic Twitter/Facebook updater (sends your highlights to your feed).

Oh I nearly forgot!! The kindle also sports a pair of speakers from which you can hear your text-to-speach voice, mp3’s and audiobooks. A nice addition even though you have to watch your space as the Kindle has 3Gygabytes of internal space which isn’t expandable.

One small tip. Don’t buy an original amazon.com leather case. Apparently they’ve been making Kindles freeze without any explanation. Not to mention they cost like £30-£50. I ended up making my own carry case for the kindle by carving an old Diary:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can definetly reccomend a Kindle if you are an avid reader and interested in new technology/gadgets.

o/