Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Joys of Moving and Why it Never Hurts to Ask for the Recipe

Ok, so perhaps joy in reference to moving might seem to some, including yours truly, to be a bit of a misnomer. After moving what feels like a million times already, I can say I am hard pressed to find heaps of joy in the process. I am at this very moment sitting in a hotel room (which thankfully has wifi access). It has been a week since I left my old home in London, and I have spent the week doing nothing but search for a new place to live. There hasn't exactly been much cooking going on, unless you count popping a Jimmy Dean Honey Wheat Egg Sandwich into the microwave for breakfast.

Shortly before I left London I shifted from cooking whatever was left to revisiting local restaurants, ordering favorite dishes I would no longer have the pleasure of tasting again directly at the source. And of course, me being the foodie that I am, I asked for recipes. Restaurants can sometimes be quite tight lipped about their actual recipes, especially smaller places, or at least that has been my experience. Undaunted by such responses as "I'm sorry that is a secret" or "I don't know the recipe," I ask for at least a few tips or a list of ingredients. After all, armed with a list of ingredients, the image of the finished dish fresh in my mind, and the flavors imprinted on my taste buds, I can usually piece together enough about a recipe to recreate it at home.

One such restaurant recipe I had to have before I left was a simple yet delicious vinaigrette served with the signature salad at Giacamo's in northwest London. I had already tried to recreate it, unsuccessfully, and I was not leaving London without at least tasting it once more. I ordered the salad, explained that I had enjoyed it several times before, and that I was moving overseas, never to have the joy of tasting it again, and would it be possible to have the recipe. I braced for the no. It came.

The waitress was however willing to divulge a vague description of the ingredients, none of which were terribly unusual. She explained it was more or less a French vinaigrette, and that I could easily look up the proportions in any cookbook. This was actually a huge help, as I had been trying to recreate the recipe thinking of it in terms of Italian recipes, not French. No wonder I had not had success in my previous attempt! She also revealed that they add plain French Mustard, not Dijon. Since I typically do add Dijon to French style vinaigrettes, this was again a helpful bit of information. I am not even sure I have ever purchased something I could classify as "plain French mustard, not Dijon," but simply knowing it is not Dijon will go a long way in helping me make this recipe at home. She also handed me a small plastic bottle as I walked out the door, grasped my hands and said "a going away present"... it was filled with their luscious homemade vinaigrette.

Unfortunately lack of refrigeration and the fun little "no more than 3 ounces of liquid" security measures on airlines prevented me from taking the dressing with me, even though I was quite tempted to try anyway. Instead, I gathered the ingredients for the salad and had another glorious taste, then passed the bottle on to my neighbor so that she could also enjoy a bit of Giacomo's at home.

If you ever happen to be in the area, it is worth stopping in for dinner, but chances are you will need to call ahead if you arrive anytime after 6:30. It is a tiny, unpretentious homestyle restaurant and it does get filled up pretty quickly some nights. Their best dishes, in my opinion, are their meat mains, especially their chicken and veal dishes, and of course the salad. Their homemade desserts are worth a try as well, especially their tiramisu which is better than average, and their simple sliced oranges drizzled with Grand Marnier.

This is the photo of the salad as I made it; the one served at Giacomo's also contains a generous handful of tiny pink prawns, but I left them out in my impromptu home version. The basic ingredients for the salad itself are simply a huge handful of fresh, clean salad greens, they used romaine or little gem and a bit of rocket thrown in for color and nuttiness, I used a bag of premixed rocket salad. Wedges of summer fresh tomatoes, tiny wafer thin rounds of English cucumber, slices of avocado, a drizzle of their lipsmackingly good vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts finishes off the salad. Once I have a kitchen again to cook in, I will attempt to tackle the vinaigrette recipe, but for now it is simply a mix of oil, white wine vinegar, French mustard, "something sweet" (honey or sugar), "whatever spices you like," salt and pepper.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you find somewhere soon to live and be very happy in your new place. I agree it doesn't hurt to ask for a recipe they can always divulge or say no.