This weekend, Jon and I did a lot of cooking and eating (surprise, surprise). We had, for example, almost a dozen small apples dropped off by the organic farmer delivery service, so I whipped out my trusty Joy of Cooking and baked the pie you see above using the “apple pie 2” receipe. It is fall, after all (though no trees here are turning color – sad).
I don’t normally bake because flour always seems to get everywhere when I do it, and the prospect of cleaning it all up is unappealing. But I was feeling relaxed on Sunday, so I tried it out. Because the pastry dough turned out pretty easy to handle, I got ambitious and gave the lattice crust a go. All in all, not a bad result. Flaky pastry, intense fruity filling. A pie, basically. Next time I’ll figure out how to crimp the edges so they’re prettier and then I’ll be happy.
It was, by the way, quite a hassle trying to find some shortening to mix into the pastry dough. The three store clerks I asked at Sainsbury’s had never heard of shortening, so I ended up using some vegetable margarine instead. The recipe was still mostly butter, but apparently the shortening helps you add structure to the crust because its melting temperature is higher than butter’s. Where’s Alton Brown when you need him to confirm?
Jon and I dropped by the weekly Islington Farmer’s Market on Sunday. Even though we now get more produce than we can handle in our weekly organic delivery service, it was too bright and sunny to ignore a trip to our local market, which is a 5-minute walk away, tucked behind the Islington Town Hall.
I love a lot of things about the market, not least of which is how speicalized the sellers are. There are stands selling just tomatoes, or just jars of honey, there’s the goat cheese guy, the organic eggs guy, the three bakers whose stands are next to one another but who distinguish themselves by bragging about their pastries or their country loaves . . . this sort of specialization is, I think, a mark of how quality these products are.
Anyway, we’ve been eating out a lot lately. We started off our weekend with lunch at our local Yo! Sushi, which is one of the conveyor-belt sushi chains that’s popular in London (the other big chain being Itsu). There’s an outpost of Yo! on the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols, but we went to the humble location near Angel to satisfy my sudden craving for sushi.
The sushi is served on colored plates, which are coded to correspond with different prices. You sit at tables along the perimeter of a conveyor belt that carries the different sushi plates past your table, and then you serve yourself by taking appealing-looking plates off the conveyor belt. Plates are priced between £2 and £5 each, but the catch is that each plate comes with, say, two pieces of maki, so making a meal of it can really add up fast. At the end of your meal, the waitress counts up your various-colored plates and tots up your bill.
None of the sushi was great, but nothing was bad, either. What I mean is that at 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, even though the conveyor belt is zipping around and the plates are being replaced constantly, it’s just 101 variations on salmon, which is too bad. I don’t know why there’d be so little variety during slow hours, but there you go. Our tab for two was £27, mostly because Jon wasn’t too hungry, so no complaints.
On Saturday night, Liz, Jon, Jon’s friend, Gokce, and I ate at The Marquess Tavern, 32 Canonbury St., N1 2TB, 020 7354 2975, which was recently reviewed by Time Out as one of the best gastropubs in London.I loved the high-ceilinged, spare interior of the dining room (click on the Time Out review above to see a photo), and it was a pretty walk along New River to get there from our neighborhood.
According to the review, the dining room used to be a morgue. Yikes. But I had no idea while I was there, so I’m glad I didn’t read the review carefully until after our dinner.
The food and atmosphere were a lot fancier than they were at the Charles Lamb last Thursday. I ordered steamed mussels with fennel as a starter, and they arrived hot and fresh, but the wine/butter sauce (oddly) lacked salt, which was easily fixed using the pinch bowls of salt everywhere. The large cuts of meat that the Marquess takes pride in were too big for our party of four. Liz and I wanted to share “rib foremeat,” but there was no piece small enough for two people there. Oh well – next time.
At £100 for wine, starters and mains for four people, it seems to be pretty good value for your money, especially if you bring a big enough group to share some of the big cuts of meat. We’ll go back.~~~