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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 11:13 am

For years I've been wanting to share a fine dining meal with my favourite cousin. He's spent his life in restaurants and besides which, we're kindred spirits and don't get to spend much time together. I wanted to take him out last year for his 50th but couldn't make it happen, so this year I thought maybe we could do it for my 40th. Originally I was going to use my air miles to fly to NYC for a weekend, but after talking to him, we hatched the much better plan to use them to fly him to me in London. So last month I had the pleasure to show him around the city I love, a place he's never had the inclination to visit. My plan was simple: to eat really well, to show him a little of the London I adore, and to drink and talk about life.

He landed Thursday evening and I took him to a pub nearby to try the award-winning Weird Beard ales, brewed less than a mile from my flat. Then off to bed to recover from the journey and be rested for our big lunch the next day.

Friday was the centrepiece for the visit. I'd booked the Ledbury for the two of us. Two Michelin stars, on the World's Best list, and constantly tops all the reader and journalist polls for London. More importantly, it's refined cooking but ultimately with respect for the ingredients. To start the journey into town we stopped for a coffee at my favourite local cafe where they source and roast their own beans. Then on to wander the streets of Notting Hill for our 1pm reservation. We enjoyed a Pimms cup whilst deciding on what to eat, both of us drawn to the same dishes. We negotiated what each of us would order and settled on a bottle of pinot gris from Alsace to accompany the meal. The amuse bouche arrived, and he was blown away: "How did they do that?!" As we enjoyed each course, we both thought the meal had peaked. But no, each plate managed to build on the previous. Everything up to mains was fancy, tricksy, and impressive. Then what I consider a very clever slight have hand by the restaurant, the mains were simply perfectly prepared protein and two veg (pork cheek for him, turbot for me); show me what you got, then feed me. We saw another table get a dessert we didn't see on the menu and it looked incredible. I tried to switch my order but the server wouldn't let me saying, "You ordered the burnt sugar tart and I think you should taste that because it's the best." So they brought the other dessert on the side for us both to share! Three and a half hours after starting we walked out, satisfied and totally blown away.

After lunch -- if you can call it that -- we walked off some of the meal by trekking from Notting Hill to Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame) to catch the 453 Routemaster bus which goes through central London to catch the signs of Piccadilly Circus and down past 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. We hopped off for the requisite photo by Big Ben then walked off more of the lunch into Soho to meet a close friend and my girlfriend at the London Gin Club at the Star at Night - a must stop for any of my boozy guests. We had the best seat in the house, chatted to the owner and had one too many G&Ts, as always. Several hours and drinks after our lunch, the four of us fell into Meat Liquor for a very late burger. It hit the spot, the food and atmosphere getting much praise from my American cousin.

Saturday I took him to another food hotspot for those in the know, the Bermondsey rope walk. We stopped for a sherry at Jose and both enjoying it so much ended up staying for tapas and a few more, appreciating the fine produce and talking about our experiences with divorce. We enjoyed a little wander around the stalls afterwards, stopping for another drink on the street and a chat to some of the vendors. We continued our discussions as we walked along the Thames and crossed Tower Bridge on foot for another photo. On the other side we walked around St Paul's to appreciate it's scale then hopped in a Black Cab to Gordon's Wine Bar, another regular on my personal tour. I'm not sure, but I think he enjoyed that almost as much as the lunch. "You know, we might have a place that looks like this in NYC, but this is the real deal. I can imagine being here 100 years ago. Perfecto!" More chatting on the ups and downs of life over some decent red then home via the excellent fish & chip shop next to my flat, where he observed the method to see where the cooks at his restaurant go wrong. He was appreciative of trying proper fish & chips, but still concluded that even done right, he's just not into fried food. He was more appreciative of the Nytimber I opened, seeing how well it went with the meal and tasting English sparkling wine for the first time.

Sunday we relaxed. Lunch was at the local pizzaria, Santa Maria. Always mentioned in the Best Of lists for pizza in London, the owners are true Neapolitans. My cousin knows a lot about pizza and was quizzing the guys on the wood they use. He approved of the oven, the wood, and the pizza (which was a relief!) He likes to check out the local grocery stores when travelling, so we stopped in for something for dinner and made another stop at the Polish shop next to me to see the sausages before heading back to mine to watch the Wimbledon final. When the tennis was over, he started dinner while I made us Sazeracs. Once the meat was in the oven, we met my gf at my local pub (another must-do) for a quick pint. She came home to eat with us. He finished preparing the squash, cavalo nero and veal shoulder. Noting that he wanted a Nebbiolo with his pizza, I opened a 2006 Barolo from my cellar to enjoy with the dinner he'd prepared. To end the meal, my gf (who loves to bake) brought one of the most British of desserts, steamed sponge pudding. "I didn't know you could steam a sponge."

We stopped at my local caffe for a fryup before heading to the airport to see him off Monday afternoon. I could not have asked for a better weekend with him. We've never had a whole weekend just the two of us. He enjoyed the places I took him and as a result, he enjoyed London much more than he expected. I enjoyed his perspective on life. We both enjoyed our joint birthday lunch. It was a special weekend for me, a realisation of a long held dream, and I hope something he will also remember forever.

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Monday, August 10th, 2015 10:20 pm

I needed a festival. It's been a couple years. I also needed the break from work.

Wilderness did not disappoint.

I'm glad we dressed up, which is odd for me to say. Something about having the vision, about my girlfriend making the outfit and bringing the vision to life, and playing around in a field as a Satyr with my Nymph. And it does add to the atmosphere to see others' creativity in how they've dressed.

Speaking of girlfriend... to me, this has pushed my relationship with her forward. Camping, spending that much time together, drinking and talking about Stuff, and of course all the shared experiences of what she and I both enjoy. It's one of the things that makes her special, and she feels the same about me. She's so open and appreciates art, music, experiences and people for what they are.

I've never been to anything which such variety of music. Bjork played a challenging set. I didn't catch the other headliners on the main stage, but I understand whatever went on late after (or with?) George Clinton was crazy - some sort of giant marionette from cranes. Highlights for me were Asgeir, Nils Frahm, Opera North's Devil's Jukebox, Hannah Sanders, Beats & Pieces, Isfar Sarabski Trio.

The perfume making workshop was great and I love the scent I made. It smells of Satyr and Wilderness :) White oudh, Orris, rosewood, leaf oil and the special no. 1 molecule base she calls unicorn juice. The Niklas Ekstedt banquet was also well worth taking my gf to. The food, the atmosphere, the experience all something special to savour. And as for the rest of the food, I didn't eat a single thing over the festival that was meh; all the vendors were excellent.

I was excited about going to some talks, and it turned out to be an important part of the festival for me. Highlights were Paul Dolan on happiness and Dr Tamara Russell on the art of mindfulness in everyday life. One of my favourite events of the weekend was Spark London's sessions, with audience members telling their worst relationship stories and a general open mic with stories and poetry.

Then there was the dancing gazebo. How it started and how many hours it went, we'll never know. When we ducked in, there was a man crowd surfing. It will go down in legend.

There's more for sure (like the outdoor spa) and things I missed out on (gong bath). There's no way to do it all, which just means I'll have to go back. :)

And as I say, I needed that.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: cleansed

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 06:36 pm

Oh LJ there's lots to catch you up on as always.

In the meantime, I must make note that I was having a flat and disconcerted week about ten days ago. I reacted by getting more sleep, not having a drink at night, and doing more cycling and exercise. I had that good sore feeling and felt rejuvenated. As always, the trick is remembering that feeling after when you can barely make yourself move off the sofa.

Also worth noting is part of the exercise was pullups, chinups and pushups which I haven't done for months. I could barely get my nose to the bar. I've done the routine again maybe twice more and today when I did them this afternoon it was no problem getting my chin all the way up.

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, March 15th, 2015 03:06 pm

Last night I took the girl I'm seeing (more on that sometime soon) to her first opera. The first time the Royal Opera has put on Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mohagonny.

As has been throughout the history of opera, for me, it is as much about being out and being seen as the production itself. The Royal Opera House is a stunning venue to be inside. I was accompanied by the most beautiful woman in the room. I had dressed for the occasion in a my charcoal Savile Row suit, a purple twill shirt, and the purple striped bow tie I got for my friend's wedding a couple weeks ago. My date wore an eye-turning form-fitted digital print dress, very low cut, with spaghetti straps and had smoky eyes and dark nail polish. She tends to stand out anyway with red dyed curly hair and petite frame, but this was something else. Standing at the bar drinking Champagne with her made me feel on top of the world.

I normally sit up in the amphitheatre but for this production I got orchestra circle seats. The view from up top is really very good, but this was definitely better (not all the expensive seats are). Great seats... beautiful date... I think I would have even enjoyed a poor production.

The reviews of the opera have been poor, but I really liked it; importantly, so did she. It got a little heavy-handed in the last act, but what I most enjoyed was the music. There was something very nostalgic in the early 20th century harmonies and melodies that engaged me from start to finish. It pulled at the piece of my soul that spent 5 years getting a degree in music.

We had a light dinner beforehand of modern tapas and enjoyed a glass of sweet Medeira at a venerable old wine bar on the way home. The time spent together in my flat was also rewarding.

I've not done much else this weekend, in fact I did much of nothing at all the rest of Saturday. But as a centerpiece, this is an event I will remember. The only improvement I could have made was to get a photo of us together.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Music: Appalachian Spring (original version)

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Monday, December 8th, 2014 07:30 pm

yeah so I'm pretty much gonna hammer lj tonight...

so here's a couple links to things that have realy resonated with me....

1. Why dinner parties are important to me. Spending a day or two sourcing food and cooking, the hosting friends.
http://time.com/42206/how-can-you-make-your-weekends-more-awesome/

2. The Artistic Process
https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_moschen_juggles_rhythm_and_motion#t-2204687

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Monday, December 8th, 2014 07:02 pm

This is probably going to be a pitiful little entry to record what was actually quite a big trip. At the end of October, I flew to Australia to spend two weeks visiting friends. It is unfortunate for me that several of my friends whom I hold close have moved so far away. Some of them have started having children, and with my newly divorced priorities, I thought it would be a good time to head down and see them all.

I know a few more people down there than I ended up being able to see, but I managed to spend quality time with everyone I really needed to. Counting it, that's 13 friends in all. In Sydney I split my time between three couples, and in Melbourne I stayed with one couple the entire week but several of my friends had time off and we had many outings together. What struck me was how for some of them it seemed that no time had passed at all, when in reality it could have been 3 to 5 years. The trip felt like an extension of my current life, rather than an escape. Continuing on from one of my goals for the year, it was 10+ days of doing things I enjoy, with people I care about.

Food and wine is generally a highlight of any trip for me, and this was no exception. Not leastwise because my friends there have very similar interests. Foodwise nothing fancy or terribly expensive, but the Aussie palate prefers freshness and is influenced from all over the world, but especially southeast Asia. There were a few dinner parties as well, which I very much appreciated. As I say, everyone was very welcoming and most had some time off. The coffee is indeed the best in the world, or at least that was my experience. The scene is crazy, places having entire coffee menus, several origins, several preparation methods, attention to detail in the taste, temperature and look of the coffee. Three of us did a trek through Melbourne visiting four of the best cafes. A large group of us also visited a couple wineries in Mornington, and mostly all the wine I had was very much to my taste all of the trip; it's not all big styles anymore. We spent a good afternoon in a brewpub and in general I tried a fair amount of local beer, though much of that was less to my taste. Besides the eating and drinking, events wise there was time on the beach -- very welcome relaxation and connecting with the Pacific -- as well as time in an animal sanctuary checking out all the crazy critters native to their land. Amongst all this, I managed to squeeze in a day of a summit of Australian companies in my industry.

As I said at the beginning, this post does not do justice to all that we did, and the scale of the trip. However, the important point is covered. Mainly that I have some good friends and they are important. That and there are worst places to visit friends than Australia (particularly if you like coffee, food, wine, and crazy animals. And nice beaches.)

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Thursday, October 9th, 2014 08:19 pm

So much I've been meaning to write, but for the moment I just relay that I'm having a 'classic' night in for me....

As the nights start to draw in, I'm in my flat, eating something comforting (baked potato with cheese), chatting to friends online, listening to music, and drinking a lovely and inexpensive red from Minervois.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: content content
Current Music: the national-trouble will find me

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 06:03 pm

Very good weekend indeed, a little of everything.

Friday night at the proms to see the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. The Schumann Piano Concerto is a lovely piece. The new works were also both enjoyable in different ways.

Saturday I was up early doors to get all my chores and shopping done. Then a mooch around Camden with a friend, visiting some old haunts, then seeing the London Contemporary Orchestra at the Roundhouse as part of Reverb, curated by Imogen Heap. Very contemporary, mostly quite interesting. My friend had 'never seen anything like that, and may never do again.'

Sunday up early again to start a cook-a-thon. Homemade veal stock, taking all day, to be used in making a demi-glace Monday. Later in the afternoon a friend came to visit and the two of us did a mini crawl of the nice new pubs in my area, then home to a lasagna.

Finally Monday, a lazy morning followed by lots of cooking (will post on danouche_palate) and making of the table nice (polish the big wine glasses, iron a tablecloth), culminating in having a youbg woman over for dinner. Meatloaf was happily a success in taste, texture and presentation. There was also a nice Rioja and lots of talking.

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Current Location: desk

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 11:16 am

My friend who booked the cottage and I are crossing in terms of lifestyle. Before it was me with the happy marriage and disposable income, going out and buying nice things and generally being care free; he had a child having problems in school causing stress in his relationship, single income feeding the family, and generally all around in more a providing mode.

In the last year or so, he has had a couple very large increases in his pay packet. He works bloody hard, and is now the guy they send in to fix the problem operations. As a result, his lifestyle is changing. He's got a nice car, a Mac at home, buys his meat from a farm shop and takes his wife out to nice meals. His son is also doing better in school and the combination of it all means his marriage feels very secure. I, on the other hand, have not had a change in grade for years and have had three years of frozen pay. On top static pay faced with inflation, I'm divorced and now paying for everything myself. My standard of living has gone down, and at the moment it feels like it will maintain -- at best -- for the foreseeable future.

Let me be clear about something first, we are talking about material things. No one has been in danger of going without a meal or losing a house. It's the fancy stuff on the edges that our consumerist culture tells us we need. As much as I rail against it, I still cannot help but to succumb at times. And I have felt small pangs of jealousy. It's horrible, because it is so unnecessary.

To start with, I am genuinely happy for the guy. Jesus, he deserves it. He's been through a lot and he works hard. As for me, I've got what I need and I'm patently not in competition with anyone. I'm in a completely different situation in a city with no car, providing for no one but myself. I tend to prefer fewer things but higher quality, and I like seeing my friends experiencing what others have to offer. I don't have the need for constant foreign travel to see the world, but I do need to eat and drink well. I have grown accustomed to a certain standard of living, but I also fully appreciate that it is a standard of considerable comfort compared to many. Basically, if my mortgage goes up a half point it means less fine wine, fewer dinners out and less expensive travelling. Priorities.

So what is my point (to myself)? Well 2014 has been a good and busy year. Forcing myself to be out, experience things and see people has given me the opportunity to compare and prioritise.

There is no need for resentment or jealousy. Ugly, base emotions. Particularly towards people I care about and have earnt what they've got, going about it the right way, who have always treated me with respect and kindness. What there is a need for, is a continued focus on what keeps me content. Even in the niceties of living, choices will be made.

So for me, eating/drinking well, in or out. Not the prestige/price of wine, but whether it gives me pleasure (in learning, collecting, sharing). Not whether a restaurant is the place to be seen, but whether the food is interesting, the atmosphere is convivial, and there is passion (rather than profit) behind it all. Putting effort into my own cooking, trying new things, feeding myself well and sharing it with friends. And music. Not the hardest gigs to get to, but performances that stir the soul or mind, with audiences that care. Interspersed with this is getting better at physical activity and putting an effort in to how I look/dress (but not flashy). Last but not least, being with people I care about and bringing out the best in them, not putting others down to make myself feel more important.

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 07:56 pm

Just had a very lovely weekend away with friends. Better than expected. Ex's oldest friends and her ex-bf's husband (who's marriage is on the rocks). On my anniversary. Yeah, but it was relaxed and calm. Enjoying the moment. Classic British holiday. Not the best weather, not much to do. There's a lot that can be learnt from not worrying about the next exciting thing and just enjoying where you are and who you're with. The steam train was surprisingly exciting.

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I seem to have moved into a space where I'm no longer dealing with being a divorcé and now dealing with being a single man. In terms of social circles, it is different. And a bit scary / worrying.

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The cooler weather and/or looking at my bank balance is making me feel like getting my hermit on. I've got something interesting already booked for Sept, Oct and Nov, so the whole going out thing may start to fade for a bit.

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Speaking of being out and about moving from the cuckold role, my focus (and maybe social media output) may change going into next year. It was part of the plan already, but it feels right at the moment.

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Current Location: sofa

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