We had lunch at Feast Junction, which is the re-branded and re-launched `Dragon Phoenix' near the ring road. We were last there back in 2006 and the place has been completely updated since then.
The food looked like fairly standard all you can eat buffet but the range was good and everything I tried was good. The food was split into several areas, with salad, soups, starters, mains and desserts. I had something from everywhere apart from the soups. The various different curries and oriental style meats were all good. I also liked the dahl and the paneer. The only real disappointments were: 1) the crispy seaweed wasn't very crispy, and 2) they had run out of ice cream cones in the dessert section, but the chocolate fountain was running so that probably made up for the shortage of cones.
Tonight we joined some friends at a restaurant called Rhubarb, in Leamington. A few of us decided to have Tapas for starters: I had the calamari and Emma had the breaded prawns. Both were very good. The calamari were piping hot, tender, and quite a generous bowlful.
For main course, Emma chose the prawns and monkfish in a thick slightly curried broth, which was ordered from the specials board. I chose the braised lamb shank and chorizo cassoulet, also from the specials. Some people's meals seemed to be a bit on the small side and came without vegetables but I couldn't complain about mine. There was a decent amount of meat, which was very tender and fell off the bone with minimum effort. The cassoulet was very similar to a spanish chorizo and vegetable casserole I used to do years ago, which was based around chicken stock, herbs (oregano and mint if I remember correctly), paprika and chorizo.
Overall, the restaurant was ok but the lack of vegetables, side dishes or accompaniments was a bit strange. For example, no bread rolls were served with the starters, even for the people who ordered soup. Prices were reasonable but food quality and serving size appeared to be a bit variable.
We were in Leicester doing some Christmas shopping, which included a walk around John Lewis. We had lunch at Carluccio's. We started with the Pasta Fritta, which was deep fried squares of herby pasta, and Focaccia All'aglio which was a really nice cheesy garlic bread.
For main course we decided to try the Tasting Trio from the pasta menu, for £20. We had the Penne Giardiniera, with courgette, chilli and deep fried spinach balls, and the Linguini al frutti di mare. Finally, I had the Gnocchi al ragu d'angello (lamb ragu) to myself. The food was good and impressive value.
Last week I ordered a couple of books from Amazon, both from the 'Collins Gem' series:
- Wild Flowers by Martin Walters
- Food For Free by Richard Mabey.
They are both small pocket sized books which will be ideal to take with you on walks in the countryside. One useful feature of the wildflowers book is a flower-type index where different flower shapes are listed alongside different flower families. It's a useful aid to identification. So far it has helped me to identify Wild Mustard (which was part of the Edible Leaves and Shoots mixture from Garden Organic) and Petty Spurge and two kinds of Willowherb (which grow as weeds).
The Food for Free book covers similar ground to the Edible Hedgerow book I bought from River Cottage. The book contains more plants but with less detail and should be useful to help locate and identify unusual things to eat.
Tonight we ate at Bombay Joe's on Walsgrave Road. We were walking up the road looking at the different restaurants looking for one to eat in.
We started with the traditional poppadoms with chutneys. For the main course we shared a South Indian Garlic Chilli with chicken and a Chicken Dansak. For side dishes we had pilau rice, chilli naan bread and Tarka Dahl. The curries were both very nice - the first was one of the restaurant 'specials' and had huge pieces of garlic in the sauce. The Dansak was described as 'sour and sweet and fairly hot' and we hoped the heat would offset any sweetness. The end result was well balanced without any obvious sweet or sour flavours. The Dahl was very smooth and buttery - we would never dare to add that much ghee into a meal but somehow when you eat out it seems ok.
As usual in Indian restaurants, the portions were well sized and we were both feeling rather full when we left. Recommended and worth visiting again.
Last week we watched the episode of Glee which featured the cast performing songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It made me want to watch the film again, which we did last night. I have mentioned in the past that I'm not a fan of musicals but the Rocky Horror Picture Show is one exception. The less said about the sequel, Shock Treatment,the better.
I got our old VHS video recorder set up so we could watch the old tape of Shock Treatment, just to remind myself how bad it is compared to RHPS. The songs are very lacklustre (apart from Bitchin' in the Kitchen), and the story (mainly a parody on TV taking over society) isn't as interesting. The film is trying too hard to be quirky and could really do with a strong character such as Frank-N-Furter.
My 'first impression' of the film was that it felt like someone trying to make a bad musical but that might be a little harsh. The film completely lacks the 'fun' element which made Rocky Horror great.
The soup was made using some spare roast butternut squash from the freezer. The rest of the ingredients were:
- 2 small onions, 1 leek, 2 cloves of garlic. Chopped and fried until softened.
- 1 tub of chicken stock.
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 1 medium sized cooked potato
- A pinch of salt.
- 1 diced carrot.
Everything was simmered for about an hour then left to cool before being liquidized. There was enough for 2 days. Day 1 was a mug of the soup with diced chicken added. For day 2 I cooked some 'soup mix' which contained pasta, pulses and grains. This made the soup very thick, almost like drinking a stew.
We received a Showcase Cinema gift card for Christmas which means we've been going to the cinema quite a lot recently. Some films we have seen include:
The Black Swan - A strange film which tries to confuse the viewer by blurring the line between reality and delusion. It might benefit from a second viewing to help clear things up but while the film was ok, I don't feel any great desire to watch it again. There was rather too much wobbly camerawork for my liking, not as much as Cloverfield but it still made my eyes tired watching it.
The Kings Speech - I thought I was going to like this film a bit but it was much better than I was expecting. The acting, writing and camerawork were all first class. I also didn't realise we had an Archbishop of Canterbury called Cosmo.
Tron: Legacy - We saw the mostly-3D version of this film. I liked the original and the new film is an adequate sequel. I did like the 80's style synth-pop soundtrack which fitted the film very well.
The Way Back - This was a highly fictionalised account of prisoners escaping from a Siberian prison camp and making their way mountains and desert to freedom in India. Despite the film being very slow in parts it managed maintain interest by building up a good atmosphere.
Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader - I was disappointed by the Prince Caspian film, which dispensed with most of the story and concentrated on a Lord of the Rings style battle sequence. Dawn Treader is a much better film and is a more faithful version of the book.
Next 3 Days - This was a special preview showing we went to in Nuneaton. The film was quite good, mainly dealing with planning a jailbreak and subsequent escape.
We have been to the 'old' Pizza Express restaurant in the city centre but this was the first time we'd been to the new one in Belgrade Plaza, next to the theatre. We tried two of their new pizzas: I had the Da Morire Romana which was the winner of the competition where customers could invent a new pizza. It was quite a brave pizza, with a lot of strong flavours including pancetta, blue cheese and rosemary. The flavours worked well together and didn't clash or overpower it. Emma had the Monte Bianco which was a chicken pizza using bechamel sauce instead of tomato. We both enjoyed our pizzas.
For dessert we had the new Doughballs with Nutella. Although the menu didn't describe it as such, this was more suitable for sharing than individual servings.
The food was good, the service was friendly. I felt a bit guilty ordering dessert and asking for the bill at the same time but we had tickets for the theatre and only had a few minutes to finish eating and leave.
I ordered this book last week and it arrived this morning. I had a quick flick through it initially and one of the first things I noticed was that one of the plants which grows along the path through the woods looks a lot like Horseradish.
I had a more thorough read through at lunchtime to confirm the identity of a few other plants which I have seen locally. Each plant in the book has a page or two describing its appearance, typical location, any associated folklore, and usually a recipe suggestion.
I was never brought up to recognise wild plants - I knew about sloes and blackberries but that was about it. I have since encountered elderberries, plums and rowan berries but that's about it. The book is going to be invaluable in helping me learn a bit more about the various plants growing in the countryside, and to spot which ones are worth eating. There is also a section on poisonous plants and how to recognise them when they might be confused with other edible plants.
In addition to the brief recipe suggestions associated with each entry, there is also a chapter of recipes at the back of the book which makes use of many of the wild ingredients.
I'm very new to the foraging/wild food idea but the book is an excellent introduction. It will certainly accompany me whenever I'm out in the countryside.
The food was a bit more expensive than we're used to - 3 courses cost £56 for the two of us, without wine. I think it was probably worth it though. Everything was well cooked and well presented.
I started with the Chilli Squid (from the weekly specials) and Emma had the potted prawns. My squid came with a couple of 'baby' octopuses which I wouldn't normally eat but I decided to give them a go.
My main course was the Pork Tenderloin, which came with sweet potato mash and a 'black pudding scotch egg' which had a tiny quail egg in the centre. For dessert I chose the pistachio and chocolate tart, pictured below.
We ate out at Frankie & Benny's in Coventry tonight. The restaurant was a bit noisy but the food was good. We shared two pizzas:
Top - Chicken Caesar Salad.
Bottom - Seafood Supreme.
The Seafood Supreme had anchovies, prawns and clams. The other pizza was a chicken pizza topped with tomato and lettuce in a caesar dressing. It was unusual to have a dressed salad on top of a pizza - we have often topped a pizza with a strong leafy salad such as rocket or watercress but we'd not thought of using a dressed salad. It was a surprisingly good combination.
Sabai-Sabai is a Thai restaurant in Leamington Spa. The food was good but a little on the expensive side. When we saw the deep fried ice cream on the dessert menu, we knew we had to try it otherwise we would be forever wondering what it was like.
The ice cream was encased in a thick doughnut style batter and covered in a kind of crispy breadcrumb. The ice cream inside was still quite frozen. It was unusual but definitely worth trying. The photo below was taken shortly after we'd started eating. The yellow ice cream inside make it look a bit like a scotch egg.
I am currently watching the new BBC adaptation of The Day of the Triffids. It's ok but they have made rather too many changes. It's ages since I read the book so I can't remember all the details but the original Triffids couldn't move very quickly, unlike the ones here. The original ones would kill a victim then patiently wait for it to decompose. They also couldn't reach out and pull people towards them. I never imagined them to look like angry Aloe Vera plants.
The book had slower pacing, which gave time for the characters to develop. They obviously decided to speed things up to make the adaptation more dramatic. The narration in the book helped create the atmosphere, making the events seem scarily plausible. Unfortunately this is lost in the tv version.
I can't remember the exact details of the original ending, so it doesn't matter that I'm posting this before the programme finishes.
Occasionally the programme felt like Aliens: The Vegetable Edition.
We videoed the film Ghost Rider when it was on Channel 5 a few weeks ago. We watched it tonight. I really hope it was supposed to be some kind of comedy. It didn't take itself too seriously but it looked and sounded a bit stupid, as if it didn't know it was so ridiculous. The acting was fairly bad but a lot of that might have been due to the awful script.
The Nicholas Cage character seems to have the same taste in music as The Stig from Top Gear. In the early parts of the film he regularly listens to a lot of easy listening stuff such as The Carpenters.