My own 2012 was…

I’d like to thank anyone and everyone that has found my blog over the past year, especially if you’ve left a comment. Nothing moves a blogger more than proof that their words are read, and nothing does that like a comment on a post! This, which just missed being the last post of the year due to too much fun on New Year’s Eve, is just a bit of a round-up of my favourite bites from 2012.

The culinary highlight of the year has to be our pilgrimage to Noma in Copenhagen. Pilgrimage is the right word; in as much as food is a religion for some then Noma has been their culinary Mecca for the last couple of years. Of course, kitchen Messiahs have an even shorter life than religious ones, so I’m glad we visited while it was still cool to do so. And it was an eye-opening experience. It would be wrong to report that every one of the twenty courses was delicious, but all of them were fascinating and most were thought-provoking.

Other meals out that I’ve enjoyed most this year have included: The Gurnard’s Head, that wonderfully cosy inn perched in glorious wind-swept isolation on the Cornish coast just a few miles from Land’s End. Splendid seafood, but it’s the setting that lives in the memory. Odette’s in Primrose Hill and Medlar on the King’s Road stand out for being by far the best examples of modern Michelin-guided French dining in London that I’ve found in ages.

The Butcher’s Arms, Woolhope in deepest Herefordshire, gets the shout for best pub meal of the year; pigeon salad and haggis fritters ain’t your standard pub fayre. The best gastronomic experience in the UK must be Roganic, reminding me again that I need to return to L’Enclume. Most remarkable dining room? Definitely the god’s eye view of London from Duck & Waffle in the City. And a final shout out to Euclid Hall in Denver, the only memorable (and marvellous) meal we had on our US holiday.

I shouldn’t ignore the places we eat at regularly. The fact that they remain favourites year-in, year-out makes them all the more worthwhile. First prize always goes to The Green Cafe in Ludlow. There are lots of places we want to try in Brighton, and yet we always find ourselves tempted back into The Chilli Pickle. And when we’re shopping the West End it’s unusual not to stop for lunch at Fernandez & Wells. Finally, the

annual tradition of Christmas Eve dinner at The Wellington Arms, Baughurst is still going strong.

It would be no fun to mention the good and miss out the bad. The Mail Room was my first chance to be a cutting edge food blogger and review a new opening before anyone else. Okay, so it’s in Ludlow. Unfortunately serial under-seasoning and risotto you could use as construction material isn’t what our town needs. Both our holidays, to France and to the Wild West, were marked by generally duff dining experiences. It all confirmed the old adage: “if you don’t research your dining options in a fairly current food guide before travelling, you’re liable to end up eating rubbish.” Okay, that may not be an old adage but it’s still true.

What about my own cooking? My favourite thing this year is undoubtably learning to cook Tarte aux Myrtilles better than Paul, though I must admit that foraging our own myrtilles (bilberries) made it even better. A couple of really flashy experiments that came out delicious: Pork tenderloin with chestnut sauce, and Singapore black pepper crab.

But the accompaniment to the crab, a deliciously spicy/sweet/sour Thai salad (Som Tam), is the thing that has become a new staple in my repertoire; I make it at least every other week. Our visit to Noma also got me experimenting; Smoked bacon fudge and Hay-smoked mashed potatoes were two of the best outcomes. And another new staple came from Noma: pot-roasted is now the only way to cook cauliflower. Trust me.

So now it’s 2013. What am I looking forward to this year? Well, as mentioned I’d really like to get back to L’Enclume in Cumbria. There are a host of other places around the country I’d like to visit; Sat Bains, Allium, Trinity, the list is effectively endless. But I’m most looking forward to getting stuck into the molecular gastronomy kit I got for Christmas! Expect more playing with food. I also want to try experimental picklings, savoury souffles and get to grips with roasting. What more can I say? Watch this space!

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