There's always a slight frisson when you eat with someone new. This was the exact moment when, let's call him Dave, because that's his name, told us about running over a gypsy in Romania. For the next five minutes I wasn't sure if he'd done it on purpose or not. It was a strange limbo... was I eating with some bizarre right wing gypsy hater? I'm rather partial to gypsies. Well, the idea of them.
Anyway, turns out he was just doing a good job of story telling. It was an accident. Gypsy through windscreen, could happen to anyone, though probably not the first excess waiver you'd think of for a car hire.
Initially arrested, then told, that despite the enormous amount of blood involved, the gypsy had survived. The police said this was a bit of a shame, because he was a very bad gypsy... and sent them on their way.
I've always thought there's something of the gypsy in chefs. A disregard for borders and paying taxes. Quasi mystical practices and a way of life that exists in parallel to our own. They all know each other, help, steal, sleep and feud with each other. The one thing they don't have in common is dance. Chefs can't dance. It's a fact. If you don't believe me, just find out which nightclub kitchen staff frequent in your town of a Sunday night, and watch. For commis chefs and kitchen porters it must be a joy... like seeing the boss naked.
Alan's a chef. Frankly if I'd spent all week cooking I'd buy food in. Alan didn't and as a result we had a splendid meal, assisted by his commis chef, and wife, Issi, so presumably, she really does get to see the boss naked.
Duck in consomme with little mushrooms. Incredible depth of flavour. Made using 8 duck carcasses. Strewth. A massacre. With earthy, bloody beetroot seeping through.
Warm smoked haddock tart. When cut into, it oozed creamy lushness. Perfect consistency.
Lamb, ratatouille, fried polenta and an delicious potato dauphin. Mmm.
Forgot to photo the chocolate mousse, sorry Issi, it's one of my favourite deserts. Lovely. With it we drank one of the few wines that's supposed to go with chocolate.
And it did. They'd brought this one back from the region a few years ago.
Swirling in the glass it made a beautiful version of what the French call 'legs' and the Germans 'church windows'. I know which I'd rather see.
It was lovely- a rich orangey, figgy sweetness with a lick of benylin cough syrup and a touch of varnish. It really went well with the chocolate and, also, it brought out the pinch of chilli that was in the mousse. Didn't even know it was there until a sip of the Banyuls. Gypsy magic.
Alan and Issi's baby, Hamish, was very easy going, positively laid back. Until, that is, we started talking about gypsies. Now gypsies have a bad image among the young... what with all those tales of curses and swapping.. but Hamish seems to like them and got very perturbed whenever they were dissed. Maybe he'll grown up to be gypsy? Or a chef.