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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/

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Random Tags: , ,

Pirate or Gentleman?

February 22, 2011 3 comments

I’ve always thought myself to be a modern day pirate. I’ve downloaded and hacked(in the sense of using hacks not creating them) my fair share of hardware/software during my life but in these last few years I’ve felt somewhat conflicted with what I had been doing.

My “Pirating career” started with my Playstation 1. I was a very nerdy kid and I had quite the videogame addiction so obviously my parents limited my gaming time and only bought me a few games a year. I was about 14 at the time and had no kind of revenue apart from the occasional birthday party or personal celebration in which my grandma would give me a few thousand lira (games used to cost around 50-100 thousand Lira at the time).

This scarcity of videogames led me to become very well read in the videogame sector. I read reviews on magazines and spoke to my friends to see what games they were playing and which ones they liked, only to ponder at which game would be my next choice to communicate to my parents so that they could buy it for me. I was probably more “in the know” than most videogame writers were at the time – maybe an exaggeration but… I was 13 years old!

This kind of tactic always landed me games like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo. Not too shabby a tactic after all!

 

A year later news came through about this new kind of hack. One could “Chip” your Playstation so that you could play ripped games. I never even knew that was possible! Internet had just become mainstream in those years but only privileged people with fast ISDN 128K connections could even ponder downloading or even uploading ripped copies of videogames like they do nowadays. This meant the whole copying and selling of ripped Playstation games was something much more personal and always involved a middle man. I’d compare it to buying drugs.

I remember I had a friend who directed me towards this tiny Electrical Repairs Shop near the town in which I lived at the time. I would never even call the guy up. I’d always have to ride my scooter (an orange Aprilia SR 50cc. I loved that thing.) to his shop and give him the list of videogames I wanted.

If they were common requests he would remove the metal foot-cover from one of his display stacks only to reveal an enormous amount of copied CD’s only to take out the one I wanted. It really was a drug dealer kind of relationship. If it was an uncommon request you would have to come back after a few days so he had time to contact his people to find an original copy of the game do rip.

You couldn’t speak on the phone, his products were hidden inside a hole in his display rack, and none of this had to happen while he had usual customers. He even used to stop making copies when he felt the “heat was on him” or when other CD rippers in the area had been caught and fined.

He used to make me pay 5,000Lira for each game. I was amazed at the new horizon that opened up in front of me for such a cheap price. I didn’t have to decide on which 3 videogames I would buy a year… I could actually try them out without even reading reviews and make my own mind up about them. This is when I really learned to appreciate what videogames could offer and it changed the way I’d look at videogames and other media entertainment forever.

The way I appreciate videogames and films is that I tend to love the films and videogames that I’ve never heard before more. Don’t get me wrong… if a game is shit… it’s probably still going to be shit. But I think that reading up on videogames… reading other people’s reviews and points of view about a videogame or film influences you in such a way that you will end up thinking the same exact thing the reviewers thought when they wrote the review even if you don’t want to. If you read a lot about the game you’re playing, you’re inevitably going to be influenced by what you read and it won’t be the same experience you could’ve had by playing the game or film without any prior knowledge about it.

To return on topic, I was having a great time pirating my Playstation game until the whole thing reversed on me. The ripped CD’s were, without my knowledge, making the Playstation CD drive laser work overtime. This resulted in having to flip the Playstation upside down or on its side so that the lens was closer to the piratedCDs so that they were easier to read and inevitably, my Playstation broke.

 

It was a sad day for 16 year old Riqz. I managed to repair it in the end, sold it (kept my favourite games and sold the rest) and I bought a Playstation 2. I promised myself I’d never again modify the hardware of my home consoles because it would probably break them. I returned to a fairly steady 5-6 games a year now but at least my PS2 was in pristine state (still works today) and I knew that I was giving money to the people who actually made the game I loved. This ensured that the game developers somehow knew that I bought the game and hopefully they would work on something new thanks to my contribution.

My break from pirating didn’t last too long. While I never chipped my PS2 I also was the proud owner of a Gameboy Advance. I fell prey of the handheld addiction and I kept on wanting more. I heard there was this new thing… flash cards. I didn’t know it was something that already existed back on the NES and SNES etc (even if in smaller quantities and much bootleggery). I spent something like 150,000 Lira to buy this 256K flash cart into which I could put about 5-6 normal sized GBA roms.

Internet had improved since the 90s and even if I was on a crappy 56K modem connection I could still download the GBA roms, being only a few megabytes each. It cut out the middle man that I once had with the Playstation and I didn’t have to spend a single dime to get what I wanted. That 150,000 Lira investment was quite fruitful after all. I think I also made a total count of how many games I had downloaded, and how much I would’ve spent if I had bought all of them instead. It was quite scary. I probably had downloaded 200 games or so in a year. They used to cost about 50,000 Lira each. That’s 10,000,000 Lira. That would’ve been around €5,100 at the time. Something a 17-18 year old could only dream about. What was different from the Playstation incident? Well the hardware wasn’t modified and the handheld still exists and works today. I was sure it wasn’t going to break and I was sure I was doing the right thing because games were stupidly overpriced.

I won’t bore you with my future pirate endeavors which involve a PSP with Custom Firmware, an Xbox360 with flashed dvd-drive (and a subsequent xbox live ban), a DS with a flash cart etc. Those are stories for another day.

The point of this story is to introduce the way I feel about Pirated games now. I have become quite the videogame collector having had videogames since I was a child. The whole act of buying a game with a case that has art drawn on it, with an instruction booklet and a printed DVD or cart, is something you don’t get with pirated games. I love to show off my collection of videogames starting from the Atari all the way up to PS3s and Xbox360s. That too is something I can’t do with pirated games. I love to know that I’m showing the game developer that I love their game by buying it.

Having a job now that I’ve grown up helps of course. I don’t have to ask anyone to give me money to buy videogames. It’s one of my passions and if I want a game I buy it. It’s different from when I was 13 and had no money at all.

To be honest, I couldn’t live without my hacked PSP that lets me play Sega CD games or Sega Mega Drive games on the go. But I also feel that buying a game is better than pirating it…sometimes. It’s a topic that baffles me because I can’t seem to decide which side I’m on. I guess the recent videogame price drop is helping towards the good cause, but stuff like SONY suing Geohotz for hacking their system only adds to the bad cause.

Maybe a balanced diet is what I should keep on having.

What do you guys think about Pirated games?

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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.

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