North End Grill, New York

I love social media.  Mr is consistently condemning it as a waste of time, but he doesn’t get it.  I do.  And I’m glad I do because that’s how I met Eric Korsh; Virtually, via Instagram (@ekorshie & @holdtheanchoviesplease).  For those who don’t know what this is, it’s an application that allows you to post pictures of anything you like; mine’s mostly food and lovely buildings or places I’m visiting.  If fellow Instagrammers like what you post they follow you and likewise.Eric is a chef.  A bloody good one and runs the kitchen at Danny Meyer’s North End Grill.  I threatened to visit some time ago and made that threat very real when I booked tickets to New York for my birthday in August.  Little did I know I’d visit when the place was in the middle of a heatwave, so booking to visit a restaurant with an open kitchen where mesquite charcoal and white oak fires up Josper ovens and wood grills was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had.  Thankfully it’s air-conditioned.


NEG is inside the swanky Conrad, located in the heart of Battery Park City, close to the World Trade Center Memorial and Eric brings a little French sophistication to a grill menu. It’s also a non-tipping restaurant which means service is included in the price of your food, quite a rarity for the City.


There’s a raw bar features some fabulous options including iced oysters ($4/each) from the waters around Massachusetts; Crowes Pasture and Peter’s Point, which turned out to be a smaller, sweeter offering.   Served with a simple chilli jam and a classic Mignonette.


The oyster brine was divine, and I could imagine it enhancing a Gin and Vermouth mix to make the perfect Martini.


Little neck clams (£3/each), head-on prawns ($6 each, half lobster ($20) and a Plateau of Fruit de Mers (12 Oysters, 12 Clams, Half Lobster and Salmon Belly Ceviche) $134.

Appetisers included Zucchini (courgette) carpaccio ($15),  Beef Carpaccio ($21), Zebra tomatoes from the Hotel’s rooftop ($15) and Lettuces with Feta, green onion and a dill vinaigrette ($18).  Not a fan of cold soup, the white gazpacho was grape-based and within it sat a quenelle of beautifully fresh cucumber sorbet, a sprinkle of Spanish Marcona almonds finished this excellent starter ($18).


Another winner was a cold pork terrine.  A clean, well-flavoured jelly surrounded a rustic, pistachio-studded meat.   It came with pickled red cauliflower, sweet baby cornichons and a couple of mustards, along with an angled slice of grilled sourdough.


Now, the sourdough is worth a blog on its own.  It had just the right amount of sour notes with a great malted treacle crust, utterly dangerous with the slightly salted butter.


The hero of the meal had to be the dry-aged strip steak with charred spring onions, rosemary and garlic.  Cooked on an open grill, perfectly charred on the outside and medium rare within.  


Expect duck breast and rosti potato ($45), Berkshire Tomahawk Pork Chop ($57), a short-rib burger ($29) and a coal-roasted half chicken ($34).

In the seafood and vegetable section, there are a couple of pizzas ($26) Hake ($39), Artic Char ($43), Turbot ($45), Skate ($32) and a Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnocchi ($36).

There are choices of snacks, charcuterie (expect French bistro classics), cheese (which includes American, French and Swiss) and sides including Summer Succotash with pickled peppers ($16) which were beautifully vibrant and full of sweet and sour flavours.


Drinks included cocktails, this the Emerald City with Gin, Cucumber, Basil and Lime ($18).


And soft cocktails, an excellent wine list, including those by the glass, and a varied selection of New York draft and bottled beer. 


If there were a dessert menu, and I’m sure there is, we were too full even to begin to read it.

Stumptown Coffee is by far one of the best roasters in New York, and they have a station in NEG dedicated to the art of coffee-making.


I loved everything about the evening; meeting Eric was a huge honour, but the food, the relaxed atmosphere and the service were all brilliant. I’ll be recommending it, and I know Mr definitely will.

North End Grill,104 North End Ave, New York, NY 10282

Review: Tipsy Tea, Mr Fogg’s Tavern

It’s about time the afternoon tea got kicked into the twenty-first century, and while there’s always a place for loose leaf, speciality teas, there’s also a place for one that’s alcohol-fuelled too. There are a few places around the UK, and a handful in London who are offering fizz and gin but some do it better than others.

Take Mr Fogg’s Tavern in Covent Garden. Their afternoon tea experience is one of immersion into the fantasy world of Phileas Fogg, the traveller and explorer. The site that straddles New Row and St Martin’s Lane was once the home of Gertrude Fogg.


When she died, she bequeathed her home to Phileas. Her Will stipulated that her life-long housekeeper, Fanny McGee could set up a tavern for her friends and professional acquaintances downstairs while Mr Fogg made upstairs his very own Gin Parlour, and it’s here his collection of more than 300 bottles are.


Each Saturday he throws open his doors to lovers of gin and afternoon tea for the Tipsy Tea.  It’s also here in the Parlour he offers a Gin Safari for groups of six or more.

The experience, and it is an experience, begins when you arrive.  An invitation to attend the upstairs parlour is given, and a bell sounded.


As you make your way to the top of a narrow corridor, you’re greeted with a, Tanqueray Gin and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic, and told a little about the ‘history’ of the site.


Next, you’re taken through to the Parlour where you take your seats, we had a chaise longue each, and learned about two different types of gin. The first was an Old Tom style gin, Jensen’s and the other New World and Martin Miller’s.


The afternoon tea menu is compiled by ‘Passepartout’, Phileas’ French Valet, and the household staff. If you’re feeling brave, you can order the bottomless teapot of gin or champagne. We weren’t and after our welcome gin, we were ready for some food. We chose Mr Fogg’s Afternoon Par-Tea-Pot made with Jasmine Green Tea, Tanqueray London Dry Gin, Pineapple Syrup and Lemon & Orange Bitters.


Then the afternoon tea arrived.


A selection of finger sandwiches and a couple of pastry-less quiches, two scones, one fruit and one plain, with strawberry jam and cream, two lemon posset and shortbread, along with chocolate and raspberry sponge cakes.


A couple of fruit meringues and banoffee tarts topped the final tier.


Bite-sized champagne jellies helped to cleanse the palate between courses.


Each tea lasts for two hours, and we finished ours at 4pm.

Be sure to pace yourself, those stairs seem deeper and narrower on the way down!

Make a reservation for the Tipsy Tea here.

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour is at 1 New Row, London, WC2N 4EA

What’s the best afternoon tea you’ve experienced?

Review: Afternoon Tea at the Culloden Estate & Spa

The Culloden have nailed the ritual of afternoon tea. From the service to the freshness and variety of the food on offer. Forget the usual offering of soggy sandwiches made during the breakfast service; there are a few interesting twists and turns that turn this feast into an unforgettable experience. Typically served in the Drawing Room, we had ours in two wing chairs because we couldn’t get enough of the view of the Lough.


We had no idea what to expect until the award-winning Thompson’s Finest tea trolley rolled into sight, followed by an explanation of the impressive array of teas.


In fact, you can drink whatever you like with this tea, from a glass of fizz to the Shortcross Gin experience. For those who are gluten intolerant, they’ve thought of you too, and there’s a special menu so those following a special diet can indulge too.

So what was on the three-tiers that arrived. Where to start?


On the top plate, all things dainty and sweet.


The glazed fruit boat was beautifully crisp, with a rich crème patisserie which disappeared in two bites.  A salted caramel and banana cupcake was moist with caramel frosting. The chocolate and pistachio Madeleine was light with a buttercream filling and the small shot glasses were stuffed with sharp apple and tart blackberry jelly layers. A sail tuile sat on top.


On the next plate were the warmed buttermilk scones – cherry, fruit and plain. Served with butter and freshly whipped cream and local raspberry jam.


On the last plate were the savoury offerings which included an egg and spring onion roll on a soft, white bap. Ewing’s smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese on fresh granary bread. Savoury tarts are always a winner for me, and these were no exception. Fivemiletown Creamery Goats Cheese is mixed with sundried tomato and basil. James Givan’s ham is paired with a delicate tarragon mayonnaise on a white Irish batch loaf.


It was a real shame it had to come to an end, but as the saying goes, all good things do.  If you struggle, you can remove any leftovers in the delicate box they’ll provide.

The tea is £29 per person. There’s also a Gluten Free tea available and an afternoon tea with a Shortcross Gin cocktail £35 per person.

Culloden Estate and Spa, Bangor Road, Holywood, Belfast, BT18 OEX
028 9042 1066

Taste of London, Regent’s Park 2016

Lucky me … I got a VIP ticket to the Evening Standard London Restaurant Awards and got to preview Taste of London. 

Taste, London

Bubbles were courtesy of Laurent Perrier and it was being poured by the gallon, so too was Tio Pepe sherry.  

Taste Awards, London

Tapas was courtesy of Jose Pizarro and included wonderful bellota ham from Cinco Jotas, alongside triangles of manchego cheese topped off with quince paste.

Bellota Ham, Jose Pizarro

Stanley Tucci was handing out the gongs and the judging panel consisted of BBC London’s Nigel Barden, Clerkenwell Boy, Grace Dent, Bob Granleese, Tracey MacLeod, Lisa Markwell, Fay Maschler, Dan Saladino, The Skinny Bib and Richard Vines.

Awards, Taste Festival

Stanley Tucci, Evening Standard Food Awards

So who got what in the Awards?

Taste AwardsAwards Taste

Best Breakfast: Parlour, Kensal Rise.

Restaurateur of the Year: Robin and Sarah Gill, who run The Dairy and The Manor in Clapham and Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.

Worth the Queue: Padella, Borough Market

Good Drinking: Andrew Edmunds

Stanley Tucci, Evening Standard

Best New Restaurant: Hoppers

Restaurant of the Year – voted for by Evening Standard readers (from a shortlist): The Woodford

If you’ve been to Taste before you’ll know that London restaurants take a stand, make a series of dishes and have one icon that can cost anything from £8.00 to £15.00.  This year you can pay using crowns which are paper tickets (£1 each) purchased on the day, or your debit or credit card.  Make sure you grab a menu card to see who’s here and what food is on offer.

He’s a Taste Stalwart and wins a lot so it was no surprise that Club Gascon’s chef, Pascal Aussignac picked up Best Dressed Stand.  He always has an interesting Icon dish but the queues were so long I didn’t get to try it.

The Action Against Hunger stand is always popular.  Five different burgers by five different chefs meant it was a huge attraction.  At one point there was a twenty-minute wait on burgers and I have to say I gave up.

Vegetarian or otherwise, Vanilla Black’s stand is well worth a visit.  You may not be familiar with their name or food but they hold their own in the food stakes.  Their icon dish is raw and chargrilled asparagus, truffled asparagus juice.  High cross and pickled Jersey Royals (£8).  

Vanilla Black, Taste

The Goats’ milk and tomato shortbread, broccoli, gem lettuce and egg yolk fudge was simply amazing (£6).

Vanilla Black, Taste

Over to Aqua Nueva where the lines were a little shorter and their Icon Dish Pork Belly with King Prawn and Chimichurri was small but stunning (£8).

Aqua Nueva, Taste

Roux at Parliament Square served us well for dessert.  The elderflower, gin, cucumber and mint sorbet was a delightful palate cleanser (£5).

Roux at Parliament

I really fancied the Shotgun BBQ custard filled doughnuts but by the look of the line, so did everyone else.  I walked on (£3).

For an alcoholic pitstop, you can’t beat Sipsmith, they’ve even got these lovely deckchairs to chill out on.

Sipsmith Taste

Sipsmith Deckhairs

Ember Yard’s dessert of vanilla and goat’s cheese cheesecake was a super combination. Macerated strawberries and Greek Basil (£4).

Ember Yard

Ember Yard, Taste

There are lots of stands handing out their products, including a new product made with chick peas ‘Hippeas’,


which were very good indeed, and the berries.  Oh, the berries.

Strawberries, Taste

There’s also a new alcoholic drink being handed out too, Twisted Halo, coconut water, ginger and vodka.

Twisted Halo, Taste

We bought a loaf of bread from The Bread Shop, strange what you buy when there’s one of the high street, but nonetheless I was lured to spend 4 crowns (£4) on a protein loaf.  

The Taste of Turkey tent had a selection of chefs from Gaziantep, recently added to the gastronomy category of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.  They’d cooked up all number of Turkish dishes, doing their bit to promote the country.

There are plenty of masterclasses put on by the sponsors and by-invitation classes organised on Twitter at the event, follow @TasteofLondon and specifically the hashtag #SecretService to get a chance to cook with some of the celebrity chefs on site.  The Balvenie whisky has a special tasting masterclass and a Lounge you can access for an extra £15.

Balvennie Lounge, Taste

You can catch live music in the Taste of London Bandstand and for a list of those providing the coffee house sessions, grab a Menu Card.  It’s also in this booklet you’ll find information about special demonstrations and events taking place throughout the week.

To get a head start, take a look at the Taste of London website.  If you don’t like to plan your day out with military precision then just take it in your stride.  You’ll never know what you’ll catch, Pierre Koffman talking about how running a kitchen is like managing a rugby team.  Guess who’s the captain?

Pierre Koffman, Taste

Taste is on until Sunday 19th June.

My Ultimate Roast Potatoes

There are thousands of potato recipes out there, from the roast potato to a shepherd’s pie topped with creamy nursery mash and the body responsible for the promotion of potatoes are always developing new ones.  In fact, it’s not just recipes you’ll find on the Love Potatoes site, it’s a resource that tells you all you need to know about the humble potato.

I’m a bit of a roast potato addict, but I’m very particular about they way they’re cooked. The roasties have to be crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside.  They should be a main crop potato, preferably Maris Piper or King Edward, par-boiled for ten minutes, drained then cooled and then roughed up in a colander.  The more they’re fluffed, the crispier the resulting roast. Celebrity chefs championing the use of Goose fat include Nigella Lawson and Mary Berry but for me, the ultimate roast is cooked in beef dripping.

I’m a massive fan of Great Taste and last year’s Golden Fork winner just happened to be a butcher who makes the best Beef Dripping ever. This is what I use to cook my ultimate roast potatoes.



1kg Maris Piper potatoes
100g Beef Dripping
2tsp flour
Sea salt, to serve


Choose a roasting tin that’s large enough to take the potatoes in a single layer and heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.  Peel and cut the potatoes into four uniform size pieces and drop them into a large pan.


Fill with enough water to cover them.   Add salt, wait for the water to boil, lower the heat and simmer your potatoes for around 2 minutes.

Put your Beef Dripping into your roasting pan and put into the oven to get it hot. Drain the potatoes in a colander and give them a little roughing up – you’re aiming to fluff out the potato exterior.


Hot oil has a tendency to spit so be careful when you drop the potatoes into the hot fat. Make sure that each potato is well coated in the dripping. Put a timer on for 15 minutes and then turn them.


Put them back in for another 20 minutes or until they start to look gold and crisp.


Scatter with salt and serve straight away.



Tipperary Food Producers

Great Taste judging is a rollercoaster ride of emotions where you can go from trepidation to ecstasy, wonderment to disappointment all in a matter of seconds.  Each spoon, or forkful, of the food tasted will either set your taste buds on fire or dull the senses.  Judges are looking for the former to award shiny little stars.

Ireland consistently produces some cracking food and at this year’s tasting roadshow in Clonmel in Tipperary, I got to taste some of the great offerings from this wonderful county.  A function room in the Hotel Minella had been transformed into a judging arena and would be our home for the week.


Clonmel means the Vale of Honey and here it flows thick and fast.  I met quite a few of the food producers who also judged with me.


Some of them entered products into this year’s Great Taste Awards but I have no idea who did and how they fared.  No producers would have been allowed to judge their products and judging of their goods would have taken place on another day.


Ailbhe Gerrard is behind Brookfield Farm, who produce amongst other things wildflower honey and beautiful handmade beeswax candles from her farm in Lough Derg.


Crossogue Preserves makes over 85 varieties of jams, marmalades, chutneys, curds and jellies.  Its kitchen is on the Molloy’s family farm in Ballycahill.  It’s also here that Mark Molloy runs the Crossogue Equestrian Centre.   I can vouch for the marvellous breakfast marmalades and the blackcurrant jelly that Veronica Molloy used in a cheesecake I tried at a dinner hosted on her Estate.


Michael Cantwell makes delicious ice cream, (seen above with the cheesecake)  with his wife Kate using milk and cream from their Holstein/Friesian herd.  Boulabán Farm produces more than 80 ice cream flavours and Michael has invited me back to Tipperary to try them all.  Little does he know I’m planning to.

At the Molloy Estate dinner, we had an impressive cheeseboard which included the most amazing mature cheddar.  Derg is made by Paddy and Kay Cooney using raw milk from their Friesian/Jersey cows.  The soft cheese, as close to a brie as I’ve tasted, is from the Maher family farm.   Cooleeney is one of many the Farm now produce – the Dunbarra range is a Great Taste Award product.  The honey from Brookfield was a lovely touch and accompaniment for the cheese.  Cashel blue is probably well-known around the world and made in Tipperary by the Grubb Family on Beechmount Farm near Cashel.  This handmade blue is one of Ireland’s most popular and is both creamy, salty and truly delicious.  The gluten-free crackers were from Jenny’s Kitchen.  Her artisan gluten-free bakery makes cakes, bread and biscuits.  Her lemon drizzle cake and rocky road are award winners.


No stranger to Great Taste, the Tipperary Kitchen, are all about homemade.  Their nutty wholemeal brown soda bread is pretty special I’m told and I’ve tried the meringue shells they make.  Brian and Marie are the team behind the brand and their passion shines through when you chat to them.  Local, fresh and by hand are words they use often and when you try their products, you can taste it.


O’Donnells crisps are produced on Seskin Farm by a seventh generation farmer who wanted to diversify when farming started to look shaky.  He saw a hole in the market for an artisan Irish kettle crisp and made crisps from the potatoes he grew on the farm.  The Irish sea salt is one of my favourites.


Malachy Dorris is the co-founder and chocolatier behind Lough Derg Chocolates. His handmade offerings include truffles and luxury chocolate bars all using local or Irish ingredients.

Vera Miklas makes modelling chocolate, from the finest Belgian chocolate.  It’s easy to work with and a must-have for any professional cake maker.


Nora Egan’s black and white pudding is made from a family recipe passed down from Mother to Daughter.  She makes it in her kitchen at Inch House Country House and Restaurant in Thurles.


Pat Whelan from James Whelan Butchers is a Gold Fork winner; he’s got the equivalent of a food Oscar for his beef dripping.  At his invite, the Guild of Fine Foods brought a judging team to County Tipperary, specifically Clonmel where he has his butchers. The family have been farming beef for five generations.  I was a massive fan of his dripping after I tasted it judging, so when he won the Gold Fork I was absolutely delighted.


For piggy products, John Paul Crowe rears free range pigs on Crowe’s Farm.  TJ processes the artisan bacon products on the farm butchery.  I can safely say that his streaky rashers are porky, salty and grill to perfection.


I ate Piedmontese beef twice while I was staying in Ireland, once at Chez Hans and again at the dinner at the Molloy’s Estate.  Both had been cooked perfectly, totally lean, yet had a deep beef richness.  John Commins and Michael Fennelly are two dedicated beef farmers who run Irish Piedmontese Beef where they breed pure breeds.  In 2005, they imported breeding stock direct from Italy and had developed a herd in Tipperary and nearby Laois.


A lack of authentic Mexican tortilla in Ireland forced a couple to crowdfund money to set up their company.  Now, they run Europe’s only truly authentic corn tortilla factory.  Nino Blanco‘s factory in Clonmel produces corn tortillas and pre-cut unfried tortilla chips for the foodservice sector.  Take a look at the Nationwide piece I link to below, to find out more about the founder, Philip Martin.

Hickey’s Bakery and Cafe is where Nuala Hickey makes traditional Barm Brack, a traditional yeasted sweet bread with added sultanas and raisins. Perfect sliced and slathered with Irish creamery butter.

Michael Corbett sows and produces cold pressed rapeseed oil  in the heart of Tipperary. He’s a third generation farmer who diversified into growing rapeseed, Michael was certain that the only way to do it right was to carefully manage the entire process from sowing the seed to harvesting, pressing and bottling.  Emerald Oils rapeseed oil is golden and has a pure and subtle flavour with no after taste.

I judged with the owner of Longways Cider Company, James and he told me all about his cider made from apples from the family orchard.  It’s not just cider he makes in Suir Valley, they produce an Elderflower Frizzante – both are award winners.  The Orchard is also hope to sixteen hives of Irish honey bees who pollinate the apple trees and produce honey.

Here’s the complete list of the Tipperary Food Producers.


Our visit caused quite a stir, RTE’s Mary Kennedy’s Nationwide programme made a film about it and you can watch it via this link.