On The Menu: Brazilian moqueca; Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio; CoYo; whoopie pies; Steve's Leaves
This week I've been eating... Brazilian moqueca
They have a thing about the Virgin Mary at Viva Tapas & Bebidas, a newish outfit opened on the northerly bit of London's Kingsland Road in "trendy" (you're statutorily required to call it that) Dalston.
The unwieldy, bric-à-brac room is overlooked by a human-sized mural of the Holy Mother, a smaller effigy joins her on the opposite wall, and one of the barmen is so obviously devout that he has her image tattooed on his arm, the Virgin abutting a tiger. It's like a hip seminary, selling solid cocktails and decent, cheap Latin American food.
Best of the eight-dish menu, which is a bit of photocopied A4, is moqueca, a creamy Brazilian stew made with coconut milk, hunks of plantain and the best-cooked tiger prawns I've eaten in a long while. It's silky, warming, comes in its own mini saucepan and has a nip of spice to it, so avoids falling into the so-rich-I-just-can't-take-anymore trap. Oh, and it costs £8.95.
The problem with most home coffee machines is that unless you are willing to spend megabucks, they tend not to be able to generate the necessary pressure. And as Achille Gaggia, the man who created the first machine in 1938, would tell you, that's the key to getting a decent crema and a good cup of coffee. Surprising then that the new Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio, which hovers around the £100 mark, has real oomph in that department, especially given that it's so compact. And not only that, it also has a quick heat-up setting, which is a real boon in the morning.
I fear I may be late coming to this party, but I've fallen slightly in love with coconut-milk yoghurt. CoYo ("heaven in a mouthful", says the package), is free of just about everything: soya, dairy, gluten, lactose, sugar. But when it comes to texture and taste it's anything but lacking. It's so luscious, and smooth and fresh – I use great dollops of it to perk up dry-as-a-bone desserts. But it's also nice on its own, in a bowl, with a swirl of honey on the top.
On a recent trip to New York I tried what I thought was the best whoopie pie there was, at a little place called The Rabbit Hole in Brooklyn. There, the two slabs of cookie-style cake, separated by a layer of creamy filling, was rich, dense, sugary and doubtlessly took days off my life. It was lovely. In this country, those on offer tend to be either soggy or dry as the Mojave. Not, though, at Outsider Tart, the little shop in London's Chiswick, which, on the basis of those I've tried, produce the best whoopie pies this side of the pond. Works of buttery art.
Over the moon
Has Steve's Leaves fractured some sort of trade-description regulation with its "Wasabi rocket"? The leaves in its "spring-water washed" packs haven't really much to do with Japanese mustard – but the stuff certainly tastes good. It's nice and fiery and is accompanied, in each bag, with red and green spinach and mizuna.
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