Tag Archives: Jamie Oliver

An evening at Jamie Oliver’s Italian

27 Jul

I’ve already done two posts on Jamie Oliver (is that right?) and one might think that that would be more than enough, but the thing about running a food blog is that you just cannot avoid the man. He’s everywhere – in the supermarket, on the internet, television. He’s even in the book (and app) best-seller list since he released his 30-minute meal manual at the end of last year!

In fact it is surprising that it took me so long to finally get to his restaurant here in Birmingham. A bunch of friends and I decided to pop in for dinner, and when I broke the news back to my sister in India, she behaved responded exactly like a star-struck, celebrity starved giggling girl. “What!”, she said, “You’re going to Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant? Do you know how lucky you are!” And then she went on describe in full detail how even former US President Clinton had trouble meeting the man because he came with a larger than expected party of people. This happened of course at JO’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant in London. Regardless, I made nothing of it on the phone, but was secretly feeling the butterflies in my stomach. People who’ve known me for a while will also know that I am a big follower of the Chef and more so for his work in revolutionising food in schools (he even inspired me to write a few food-based stories for children).

So when the day finally came, I was very excited. We got there on time, entered and then were shocked at the kind of crazy crowd that had gathered. Our original reservation was for 9 pm, but I think we finally got our table around 9.45. We sat ourselves down, were handed the menus which were surprisingly simple. I know this is his speciality and I also know that on the website he had stated very clearly that the restaurant was all about home-like Italian food. But I have to say that my expectations were so high, that I felt a little disappointed. Although the ambiance was very warm and welcoming (with yellow lighting and wooden panelling), the place was too busy for us to feel like we were sitting in a speciality restaurant.

We ordered the white house wine, which was the right amount of spritzy and fruity for someone who is a wine-amateur like me, and then went on to the main course. The specials that day like the 15-hour cooked lamb risotto and the pork chop with roasted apple turned out to be the best dishes, apart from the sea bass that one of my friends said was delicious. I also tried *wild boar* pepperoni for the first time in my life, which was a bit chewy but subtly spicy and oily (part of the pleasure of eating any pepperoni is the fat it comes with, isnt it?)

The stars however were the desserts. I especially *loved* the chocolate and espresso tart that was served with figs (what a sexy combination!) and orange cream fraiche and dusted lightly with cocoa powder. Wah!

I guess overall everyone was quite happy. Put together – the ambiance, the culinary highlights, a few glasses of wine and fine company made for a wonderful evening. I wouldn’t mind paying another visit, and this time they better have their JO aprons on sale!

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Ok Mr.Oliver, lets see what you got

14 Apr

I’ve always been a big time fan of Jamie Oliver, but I’ve always sort of been a little distant from the merchandising and ready-made product wagon that inevitably follows celebrity chefs. I mean, there’s so many of these ‘Chef’s Specials’ out there masquerading as secret ingredients and magic potions to transform your cooking into professional stuff, that one has to be really careful about which one to pick, and what the product is going to deliver.

Recently I picked this one up along with a pinch of salt. Its called  ‘Jamie Oliver’s Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce’, under which is says ‘Honest Italian Flavours’.

At first look and taste, I was really impressed with the fact that I could see whole Basil leaves in the sauce. Also, it tasted fresh and like it had been made from proper tomatoes, minus the artifical colours and flavours. I decided to use it in my spaghetti with some vegetarian meatballs (I was still on my 9 day Veg challenge, remember?)

But when I began cooking, I realised there was a gap between my expectations and what the product delivered.  I guess I must’ve fallen for the whole ‘magic potion’ thing too, because I very quickly became disappointed that it did little beyond giving me the basic. To salvage the situation,

I added some garlic paste, some salt, pepper and a bit of oregano to make the whole thing a little more exciting. This was clearly not a product for someone who wanted to make 2-minute meals.

To be fair, it did retain its thick and natural consistency even after being simmered, and so was faithful to its promise of being honest.

All in all, I will say go ahead and try this. But I will also suggest that if you do, you may as well bring your own magic tricks to the table.