My week in food
Now that autumn’s here I am going to channel the hedgehog. I won't be wearing spikes or infesting myself with fleas, but I will be Hibernating. With a capital H. Going out is hard work at the best of times, let alone in the sleet, hail or rain of a grimy London winter. No! Other than for work, weddings and funerals, you will need a crowbar to prise me from my squidgy sofa, glass of wine and boxset library.
So in preparation for slothfulness, last week was my final hurrah.
On Thursday I had lunch with my lovely friend Susan. We decided to celebrate/get sad about my youngest and her eldest starting school, with lunch at La Trompette in Chiswick. It has a Michelin star, but does a great value £27 set menu. Sad to say, although the food was delicious, I can’t remember what I ate. That is the fault of the glass of pink champagne we kicked things off with. Then there was a bottle of wine followed by a couple of throat-strippingly strong espressos. Interestingly, the sommelier (it was that fancy) recommended an Indian wine at a very reasonable £22. We weren’t quite brave enough to try it, but I was intrigued. Maybe next time.
So what can I remember? There was cauliflower soup with a black-pudding crostini, some pork belly with a side dish of a whole pig’s cheek – that looked too much like a testicle for me to eat. Then there was peach sorbet, followed by handmade truffles and coffee. There is nothing like naughty daytime drinking, but come 7pm and children’s bedtime I had a gurgly tummy, splitting headache and bounteous self-pity. But it was worth it.
I flew to New York for work (I rarely get to say that, and will not apologise for showing off) and was literally dancing in the aisle when I was upgraded to business class. I had a bed. Champagne. Truffle pasta. Handmade chocolates. I read a book. Saw a film. It was great. Like a mini-break. I always thought I had a fear of flying, but it turns out I just have a fear of flying economy class.
As soon as I arrived in Manhattan, I put on my trainers and power-walked (when in Rome) from Battery Park to East Village – home to my favourite restaurant in the world. Momofuku. Its name is Korean for lucky peach. I first went on a trendhunting trip with M&S two years ago and have been dreaming about returning ever since. I sat at the bar on my own drinking Red Rooster ale, eating smoked chicken wings, steamed pork rolls (yum) and a sweetcorn dish, with bacon, lime and cotija cheese that stole the show. I felt utterly content in my own company, quietly rejoicing in my good fortune.
Breakfast was in the hotel restaurant (the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park -obviously I wasn’t paying) watching New York wake up. I had a stack of almond milk pancakes with caramelised bananas and maple syrup. Delicious, but MASSIVE! The portion was double what we consider normal, but of course it would have been rude to leave a morsel. The cause of the US’s obesity crisis is no mystery.
Lunch was a taco on the go at Madison Square Gardens amazing outdoor food market. They were loads of trucks selling gourmet hotdogs, delicate flavoured ice-creams (Earl Grey or Lemongrass), Mexican, beef brisket, ice-cream sandwiches, shaved ice (as it sounds, but with natural flavourings), minted lemonade and home-brewed beer. I had a chicken taco with guacamole. I love good Mexican and am thrilled that thanks to Wahaca you can get in London. Dinner that night was a room-service beefburger served with Monterey cheese and salty chips and eaten cross-legged on my bed, whilst watching CNN.
My first full on work day. I was interviewing Liam Neeson, who is by far the most disarming man, I have ever interviewed. By disarming, I mean sexy. He is old enough to be my father and then some. Anyway, he got more than he bargained for when the stool I was sitting on broke. I am pretty sure he saw my knickers and I was just grateful they were clean (ish). Thankfully that didn’t put me off my food, although I can’t vouch for him. Breakfast and lunch were on the job. My favourite was a delicious flat bread topped with sliced, roasted cauliflower and caramelised onions. Cauliflower is such an under-rated vegetable and it was great to eat it in such an unusual way. I am definitely going to try it at home.
I flew back. I wasn’t upgraded. I sulked for the entire journey. I arrived in London to full-on rain, two beautiful children and a completely empty fridge. Luckily, on my travels I’d bought a few foodie bits - like homemade hot berry garlic jelly, 20 courgette flowers (I must be the only person sad enough to return not with clothes and cosmetics, but vegetables - they were a steal at £3 from Union Square farmer’s market), a nest of 10 glass food prep bowls from cookshop Williams-Sonoma (expect to see them debuted on YouTube very soon) and some confetti Momofuku cookies. I put the kettle on and shared one with my daughters as we snuggled on the sofa. Although NY may be my favourite city in the world, there’s no place like home.