Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Gala Night at Chelsea....
The rain held off, at least - but Chelsea could have done with being a few degrees warmer for the preview evening on Monday. Champagne flowed, and the canapés were really rather good, for a change - particularly a miniature spoon-shaped affair made of a biscuit pastry, which was filled with a delicious foie gras pâté. Definitely more-ish. So, I did. Those and some splendid colchester oysters, which were being shucked and offered on the half-shell by a very chatty octagenarian, were definitely the culinary highlights of the evening.
For the most part, the show gardens had decided to go for green-and-white themes, which must have been rather irritating when they all began to set them out (like people turning up to a dinner party who discover they're wearing identical clothes); and since it's exactly the idea of the garden in Pisa, everything looked rather familiar. In any event, it provided an appropriately calm background against which the peacock colours of the great and the good stood out rather well, as they stood around and discussed mergers and acquisitions and sub-primes and derivatives trading, and whatever...
We nearly bumped - literally - into John and Norma Major as they took the corner quite sharply beside the Laurent Perrier garden ( I catered a drinks party for her once, at the House of Commons... but somehow I doubt she'd remember) and otherwise there were quite a few faces that looked as though they ought to be 'somebody', but I'm not sure who, exactly....
As ever, my favourite stands in the Pavilion were the roses...where the Peter Beale display particularly always has me wondering if there's any way I could possible fit anything more into the garden - to which the answer has to be a regretful 'No'. And right beside Peter Beale's roses was the stand for Ken Muir's strawberry plants , the smell from which was quite wonderful..
Which leads me to my grumble of the evening. The Technical Dept had been left at home, on dinner preparation duty. Which was splendid. We started with Asparagus, which at this time of year, and coming from Hampshire should have been perfect. The platonic form; the acme of asparagus.....as good as it gets...
The colour was right - a beautiful deep green - and the texture was good, just the right degree of bite. The flavour? What flavour? Notable by its absence. Nul. How do they do that - considering it was perfectly possible to get acceptable asparagus in the middle of winter, when the growing conditions can only have been less than perfect, even taking into account their journey from some distant hot-house somewhere on the other side of the World? If Hampshire can't manage to come up with the goods at prime Asparagus season, then we might just as well all give up in despair.....Yet another depressing example of spin over substance, I suppose.
Back to Italy this afternoon, to see how a green and white themed garden looks for real - and this one with the appropriate temperature, and Tuscan sunshine!
Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Leek-flavoured Sausages, with Broccoli Purée
Raspberries and Blueberries in Prosecco.
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We've eaten some aparagus from Norfolk recently, a commercial grower who sells 'at the farm gate' as it were. The flavour was just superb. Closer to home, in North Buckinghamshire, a small holding sells smaller bunches of fine aparagus and that has an even more intense flavour. Perhaps your should look east for your supplies?
I'm deeply jealous. Good Asparagus is one of the true joys of life! As expounded by Marquez in 'Love in the Time of Cholera', I recall - a book which also ranks highly as a life-enriching experience....To be honest,in London,one doesn't have an awful lot of choice; you buy what they choose to sell you. Better off in Italy, when it comes to quality of raw materials, I've now pretty much concluded...
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