Goodbye, 2014

Not my favourite year by any stretch of the imagination.  Nonetheless, plenty of good things kept me going (along with the obvious – friends, booze, family, food.)  Here are some of them:

On screen

Game of Thrones – funny, ludicrous, panto meets porno meets soap opera – relentlessly entertaining.

House of Cards – an unremitting exploration of power and cruelty.  Sickeningly brilliant, classy TV.

Shia LaBeouf by Rob Cantor

I saw this retweeted on the marvellous Sam Binnie’s twitter feed and it has given me much joy ever since.  As life affirming as a Bread Ahead custard doughnut, less fattening.

Movies

Despicable Me 

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Artist is Present

In A World

On stage

A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian “Girl Crush” Anderson

King Charles III

On the page

I read about 40 books this year and my favourite, hands down, was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  Original and funny and moving and unexpected.

Also awesome were:

Emma Brockes – She Left Me The Gun

Bad Blood – Lorna Sage

Vacant Possession – Hilary Mantel

Good Behaviour – Molly Keane

Music

Most played, according to my computer:

Clean Bandit – Rather Be

Arcade Fire – Here Comes The Night Time

Go West – We Close Our Eyes.  I wouldn’t tell you this fact if I wasn’t ok with sharing it.

Jeremih – Don’t Tell ‘Em.  Strange, I actually thought this song was about anorexia for the first 10 listens – I thought he was singing ‘you ain’t eating’ – instead of ‘you ain’t even’.  I actually hated it when I first heard it, yet found myself repeatedly drawn back to it.  Lorde’s cover is interesting and sounds, to me, quite menacing.

The National – Pink Rabbits, Fireproof, Demons

Favourite lyrics

Every song on The National’s Trouble Will Find Me is filled with gems, too bountiful to reference. So

I’ll go in the other direction and just put down my favourite dumb, tautological, ridiculous lyric, again on Jeremih: On my late-night thirsty, because it was late-night and I was thirsty.  I suspect it means something filthy, given the lines preceding it but whatever – for sheer dumbness, I applaud it.

Best gig

Arcade Fire in Hyde Park.  On a perfect summer’s night I cried, laughed, ate chips, danced like a pagan who thinks they’re a really good dancer and then was nearly sick on the up-in-the-air merry-go-round – what more joy is there in this world?

Most over-rated

I don’t like it when people write mean things about me online.  I try not to do it either, so I’ll just say that I SERIOUSLY don’t know what all the fuss is about with this little list:

Kurobuta restaurant

Chiltern Firehouse

The Missing

The Fall, season 2

Serial – podcast

I mean I understand why people have frothed at the mouth in delight at the above – I just don’t agree with them.  I don’t agree with them at all.

Here’s hoping 2015 is more Tyrion Lannister and less Kim Kardashian’s arse.

Happy New Year.

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My favourite food of 2014

It’s not like the only thing I ever think about is my next meal – it’s just that food has proved to be one of the few reliable pleasures in my life.

Mindfulness, shmindfulness – give me great American TV and a perfect cheese burger with bacon and I’m at peace with the world (well, maybe not quite at peace with my upstairs neighbour and his wooden floors).

In 2014 I ate out loads – partly because I was researching The Dish – partly because eating is my running and my knitting and every other hobby I never had. I try to avoid taking photos in restaurants but occasionally something is so delicious I have to take its picture so that I can reference it for work, or use it to urge a friend to hunt down this perfect toasted cheese sandwich at the Towpath cafe in Hackney!

I’m never really comfortable in poncey restaurants – not least the ones with severe attitude problems. The places I enjoy the most tend to be low key and sincere, and purveyors of quite fattening food: C&R cafe in Wardour Street for their mega-laksa soup; Honest Burger – great chips; my local curry house – chicken dhansak, once a week, every week, baby.  Having said that, my favourite place this year was a tiny little restaurant called Wheeler’s, in Whitstable.  It’s certainly not poncey, though it’s not cheap either – but it’s one of the places where you turn to the person you’re eating with after each mouthful with a big dumb grin on your face.

Anyway, I’ve put together a board of my highlights from this year – a few of the places are abroad, where they tend to do things like tacos and croissants better than here, but for the most part they’re in the UK.

And here’s a list of some of the food on there, and some I didn’t manage to photograph before ramming it into my gob…

Best deep fried crunchy snack: Arancini at Hodder Hartnett in Limewood, Hampshire; Crispy buttermilk chicken with aioli at The Bull And Last, Highgate Road, London

Best bread: Giant Persian flatbreads at Patogh, off Edgware Road, London; Ciabatta rolls from Bread Ahead, Borough Market; Nduja & gruyere flatbread at Duck and Waffle

Best butter: No butter I ate this year (and believe me, I ate all the butter) can compare with last year’s best butter – caramelised onion butter from Radio in Copenhagen.  I know this is unhelpful, but all I can say is, that butter set the highpoint for butter in my life, and every butter since just does not compare.  Very sad, I know.

Best soup: Singapore laksa, at the newly refurbed C&R cafe, in an alley off the bottom of Wardour Street

Best burger – high street: Honest burger, with those rosemary fries

Best burger – payday: Goodman’s, Maddox Street

Best vegetable / side dish: Cavolo nero with chilli and cream at Hartnett Holder, Limewood

Best pastry – circular: Bread Ahead’s mince pies, Borough Market

Best pastry – long and thin: Kouign Amann, (is this ok for Scrabble I wonder?) at Le Patisserie de Reves, Marylebone

Best pastry – swirly: Chocolate and pistachio escargot at Du Pain et Des Idees, Canal St Martin, Paris

Best custard-based enterprise: Bread Ahead doughnuts, obvs.

Best prawn crackers with a view: City Social Bar, Tower 42

Best posh meal (and a bargain at lunch): Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

Best meal under a tenner: chargrilled lamb, buttered rice, flatbread – Patogh, Crawford Place, London

Best meal, best meal, best meal: Wheeler’s, Whitstable

Happy eating in 2015!

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