Thursday, 27 August 2009

Well-dressed lobster and phantom meringues

Hmmm, the jury’s out on the cheat’s hollandaise…I had to make an apology to the fish, as time-efficient though it was, it was a different sauce altogether. I also learnt a valuable lesson about making Eton Mess ahead of time – don’t add the meringues until the last minute, after an hour in the fridge they had completely vanished into the cream! Last minute nerves I suppose – nonetheless the evening was great fun, the ambient volume knob inched up by a bottle of delicious Dom Perignon 2000 (a present, wow!), and an amazing Chassagne Montrachet. Not bad for a Monday night.

Foodwise, the evening’s quiet star had to be the amazing buffalo mozzarella we had to start with, along with fragrant plum tomatoes and avocados the size of grapefruits, all from our local Italian deli, Olga Stores on Penton Street.

Dad lives in Norfolk, but work keeps him mostly in New York. When he is here, he does a lot of giving, and not great deal of taking, so when my brother and I saw a chink of daylight in this busy giving-schedule we seized upon the opportunity and staged a Dad-napping for Thursday afternoon. For the most part of last week, he had been looking rather longingly seawards every morning, alas to no avail – there were other things to be done, so Dave and I knew exactly where to take him that day.

Very early this year, on a fruitless (or rather crab-less) mission to Cromer, some friends and I had stumbled upon a secret shrine - a shack if I am honest- to all things crustacean, and fishy, somewhere along the north Norfolk coast. Aptly, it sits in a place named Salthouse. I am deliberately vague about its name – their wares are fresh and bountiful and smell of the sea, it would be too easy, and you need to feel that you have discovered it to compound your joy at what you find within. We plumped for the lobster salad, which not only comprised a day-glo red half-beast, but a generous smorgasbord of other wonders: cockles, herrings, smoked mackerel and prawns – the greatest hits from the Norfolk shores. The pot of mayonnaise and warm boiled new potatoes bathed in butter are a must. They are not licensed, but it seemed all the more Blyton-esque accompanied by a can of eye-wateringly fizzy ginger beer.

I think it is safe to say that this feast, preceded by a breezy walk along the nearby pebble beach at Cley, meant that the sea rushed into all the reaches of Dad’s soul that afternoon – enough to tide him over until the next time he’s here.

P.S: usually a nothing-on-toast-but-marmite girl, I have been bowled over by a gift from my 11 year old goddaughter, who has recently become and apiarist. Contrary to what one might think, this is not a lover of monkeys, but a bee-keeper. Words cannot describe quite how proud I am of this little person in general, but the thought of her in her suit, braving the bombardments of stingers while she collects their hard-worked treasure, just amazes me. Watch this space, the Nacton gold stuff will be on everybody’s Christmas list…

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