Monday, 16 November 2009

Texture Restaurant, London / The Renaissance of Cauliflower

So – what's your opinion of cauliflower?

How many marks would you give it out of 10?

How does it rate in a showdown with, for instance, broccoli?

In the league table of vegetables, is it a Cambridge or a Bolton?

The Intellectual Hooligan would never presume (you may well imagine) to anticipate your own feelings on the matter. For his own part, though, he must confess never to having considered the cauliflower to sit atop any kind of pedestal. Cauliflower, in the eyes of the unreformed Hooligan, was probably in the bottom quartile of vegetable accompaniments – unless it was pulling off a stunningly unexpected coup in the context of cauliflower cheese.

For me, y'see, cauliflower was definitely sub-broccoli. Too often soggily school-dinnerish and bland – its sickeningly yielding, translucent-albino flesh oozing cabbagey juices; its flavour as desaturated as its appearance.

But I come to you, o reader, in the wake of a damascene conversion.

Ye! I have seen the light; I have tasted ambrosia. And I preach unto you a new gospel: that of the Ur-Cauliflower.

The cause of this extraordinary volte-face? The agent of this revelation?

Now, Texture is a pretty top joint. But what'd you expect of a gastronome such as myself? I found myself there (as a gift, mark ye!) on the anniversary of my birth, consuming the contents of the restaurant's 'tasting menu' – a sensory odyssey of eight courses (or thereabouts … What? You want me to count as well as write?).

Now, you might be wondering how on earth a man (even one as inordinately podgy as myself) manages to chow his way through eight courses. It does, you're right, sound somewhat excessive. But each course, y'see, is very little. No big wodges of protein here; no steaming hillocks of vegetable; no polyfiller carbohydrate.

Instead, you're getting a few brilliant morsels. Every mouthful is an event. This is blink-and-you'll-miss-it cuisine.


Now, I don't for a moment propose to go through the meal course by course. That would be immeasurably tedious, wouldn't it? I hate restaurant reviewers who go on about the bloody food.

(No, but seriously: reviews that harp on about food are boring. Stolid, unappetising, unilluminating.)

But you want to know about the cauliflower, right?

It came in liquid form, within a vessel only somewhat larger than a thimble. And it was FUCKING AMAZING. Creamy but light and totally free of unctuousness, masterfully textured with tiny nutty fragments, and ... man ... the essence of all that is right about cauliflower. The Kobe Beef of the cauliflower world. This cauliflower had been grown in the composted remains of the Hanging Gardens of frigging Babylon. Massaged daily by nubile vegetable fetishists. Pruned and trimmed by award-winning topiarists. It was a bonsai cauliflower.

What else? Well, there was the tenderest, seeping eyelet of pedigree pigeon, offset (marvellously, imaginatively) by bacon popcorn (all the smoky intensity of the former; the light dryness and crunch of the latter). Precious crystals of rhubarb, served in a cauldron of liquid nitrogen. Paper-thin cod's skin, fried to a crisp ...

So. Texture Restaurant. If you're looking for mindless nosh or mountains of carbohydrate, best to avoid. Eating here is an aesthetic experience, and one that (like a visit to the Tate) demands concentration. It will make you think, make you savour. It will bewilder you with a catherine wheel of flavours and textures.

And it will revivify at least one common garden vegetable.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist stumbles

Relatively recently, the site of which she is founder and figurehead – Brazen Careerist –metamorphosed into a social networking site, a 'career management tool for next generation professionals'.

(So Penelope's popular, linkbaity blog – which mixes careers, sex, 9/11, sex, networking, sex and sociology (spiced up with a soupcon of sex) – has, in one respect, acted as a protracted 'warm-up' and advance marketing tool for Brazen Careerist's social networking dimension. And a very successful and engaging one. Even the bits that aren't about sex.)

This new Brazen Careerist social network is scrapping against Linkedin on the established, slightly older and more traditional right-hand flank, and Facebook on the less targeted, more indiscriminate left. Quite a pair of combatants. But there may well be a niche. Well observed.

I've created a profile on Brazen Careerist (following Penelope Trunk's superb clarion call thereto), but haven't really done much else. To be honest, I'm not madly into that stuff. I have difficulty enough responding to emails.

Anyhow, that's the background.

Today, though, I received an email from Ryan Paugh, right-hand man of Penelope and CEO of Brazen Careerist. Not a message to my Brazen Careerist inbox (or whatever); an actual email, to my personal account.

Here's the text of the email. You probably don't need to read it all – the first couple of paragraphs and the PS should be ample:

Hey Guys!

I'm reaching out to you today because I wanted to share something our friend Ramit Sethi is offering for members of Brazen Careerist. You may know Ramit -- he writes about personal finance and entrepreneurship at, became a 26-year-old New York Times bestseller earlier this year when he published "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," and has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, etc. He's the only guy who's ever given me advice that I actually used for my OWN money.

He is THE personal-finance guy for young professionals, and he's offering an online Personal Finance Boot Camp that will help you automate your finances in 6 weeks. He'll be teaching...

Specific tactics to optimize your credit cards
Negotiate with banks (negotiation scripts included)
Set up high-interest accounts
Start investing in sensible investments
AUTOMATE your money so you can focus on the things you really care about.
Not just stuff from his book - he'll be doing weekly webcasts and inviting special guest speakers to cover entrepreneurship topics like marketing, pricing, branding, and more.

I know what you're thinking: "Why do I need to pay money for this? I could get all of this for free online."

Yeah, that's true. You can read How-To's until your eyes bleed. But taking action is whole different ballgame. (1) If you pay you're going to actually DO it, and (2) when you join the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Boot Camp you're making an investment to automate your own finances. I'm a fan because he never lectures people about spending money on lattes, but instead shows how we can spend EXTRAVAGANTLY on the things we love, if we cut costs mercilessly on the things we don't.

When Ramit came to us with his Boot Camp idea I knew it would be a success because (1) the man knows what he's talking about, and (2) he emphasized how the program was all about motivating each other to succeed. The point is not to just READ, but to take ACTION.

You guys know we don't think twice about spending money to go out, or see movies, or buy shoes or whatever. So I really encourage you to invest in yourself for 6 weeks and take action on your finances.

Registration closes in 72 hours, so sign up now to automate your money in 6 weeks and start 2010 off fresh.

Here's the link:


- Ryan Paugh, Director of Community

PS: In full disclosure Brazen Careerist has an affiliate deal with the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Boot Camp and will receive a portion of profit for every person we get to sign up. With that said, Ramit Sethi is the best of the best and you're going to get what you paid for!

... Mistake.

Brazen, you're a young social networking site, trying to carve out a difficult niche. Spamming affiliate sales messages to your early members only months after your launch is a VERY BAD IDEA.

Now, allow me to be clear: I'm not upset. I'm not offended or enraged. (I have better things to be offended and enraged by, honestly.) And I'm in no way implying that this is a con or anything (even with a URL like that).

But when was the last time the CEO of Facebook sent something like this to my inbox? Or Linkedin?

This makes Brazen Careerist look cheapass and desperate for a quick buck. It looks insecure and unprofessional. It administers a whacking great blow to the careful brand-building of Penelope's blogging (which is so effectively personal).

And I reiterate: it doesn't matter if this Ramit Sethi is the best there is. The fact remains, you're spamming me with unsolicited sales messages. That's not a good signal. If you want to play with the big sites, Brazen, stop doing that shit.

Because the brand is a real fragile thing. Be gentle with it. O be gentle.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz - dark fruit and shoe polish triumph

Any members of the Wine Society reading this blog o' mine? Statistically improbable, I guess.

Be that as it may, I'm nevertheless going to take a moment to recommend Grant Burge's 'Benchmark' Shiraz (2008, South Australia), which was one of the (numerous) bottles I received in my latest duo of cases from said Society.

Considering the fact that it's a smidge under £6, this is a damn good wine. Shove your snout into the glass and inhale a bracingly intense blend of blackcurrant and shoe polish (FUCKING LOVELY SHOE POLISH) … then grab a gobful of liquorice, coffee and dark fruits, before tailing off gradually (oh so delightfully gradually) to raspberry and lavender.

I reckon I'll be snapping up a fair few of these critters.

Ahh ... writing about wine. This used to be my frigging ambition, d'you realise? Right up until the stone-hearted bastards at Majestic Wine rejected my graduate trainee application on the (scandalously misguided) grounds that I am 'not a natural salesman'.


In defiance of Majestic, then, you may expect more of this kind of tosh. Indeed, this week's Intellectual Hooligan may have something of a gourmet theme, I fancy ...

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