Archive for the 'blogging' Category


My Rick Stein review on Great British Chefs

Great British Chefs is an online community that – unsurprisingly – focuses on, and promotes, great British chefs.

Proving that great British cooking sometimes happens outside the British Isles, they’ve posted my review of a recent meal I had at Rick Stein at Bannisters here in Australia.


I know some publish-y people

A couple of smart, driven people I knew back in London are doing well for themselves, and getting books published. I believe in celebrating successes. So yay!

Sian Meades has her fingers in several writing pies. But it’s you-can-have-it-all blog Domestic Sluttery, which she founded, that’s going to be published in book form in November. If you’re a woman who realises – or wants to realise – that you needn’t be perfect to be fabulous, pre-order it now.

Niamh Shields has been blogging about food and travel at Eat Like A Girl for a long time now. But she recently saw the publication of Comfort & Spice, her first book of recipes. Buy it now, if you love food and want to love making it. No one loves food like Niamh.

There you have it: two great people who are realising dreams. That’s pretty awesome.

It does imply, however, that if you want to get published you need to have an Irish [or Welsh] woman’s name.


Sydney Bloggers Meetup

Last night I attended my second Sydney Bloggers Meetup. Like the first one, it was at The Arthouse Hotel. Also, like the first one, it…wasn’t over-attended.

But there were new faces, included someone whose stuff I’ve read at ScienceBlogs: Tim Lambert at Deltoid. That was very cool, as I’d seen Tim’s ongoing battle with the climate denialism of newpaper The Australian. I spoke to him briefly on the recent increase in denialism due to the media throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The lovely Catherine from Domestic Joy was there again, too. My London blogging experience with food bloggers was that I sometimes got to ride their coattails to foodie events. I’ll be sticking close!

I was also asked to speak to the gathered few about my experiences with Twitter, and about the upcoming Sydney Twestival [web page | facebook | twitter].

The only downside to the evening was that – due to an overzealous doorman’s dress-code application at the admittedly swish Arthouse – I had to sneak my shorts-wearing self up the back stairs. He gave me a dirty look when he saw me leave, but TOO LATE, SUCKER!

I definitely plan to keep up with the Sydney Bloggers. The conversations are always good, and there’s certainly room to grow it.


Sydney Blogger Meetup

I had some good times at the London Bloggers Meetups for the last two years I was in that city, so I decided I’d join the Sydney Blogger Meetup group when I came here. Tonight was my first one.

It was focused. That’s not just a code-word for small, though it certainly was. But organiser Kitty said the gatherings used to attract a lot more people, so we spent much of the time brainstorming about how to get the numbers back up. Everyone pitched in, and I shared what I’d seen work in London. And they were a good bunch of folks.

Post-global financial crisis I think there are opportunities to get the numbers back up. Stay tuned to see if we’re able to make it happen.

One nice bonus: this was my first time in the Arthouse Hotel, which is a pretty cool spot. Though I think they might have a problem with rats: look at this huge one I snapped a photo of during the meeting:


Little Green Footballs: not so right-wing anymore

A little over three years ago I blogged about visiting a blog called Little Green Footballs, which was – at the time – one of the most vitriolic right-wing places on the web. My experience was one of aggression and hate. I’ve never gone back.

I just read, though, that blog owner Charles Johnson had a bit of a conversion and has disowned the far right. It’s true: here’s his blog entry explaining why from November, and a Huff Po interview about it and the threats he’s received. The comments I read on LGF now seem moderate and almost free from the cruelty that characterised them before. It seems it was a gradual conversion, but that November post was a clear statement of the shift.

LGF isn’t preaching socialism or anything, but – as one who dipped his toe in the pool – it’s shifted in some big ways. I wouldn’t have thought it possible in late 2006, and I think it’s admirable that it has.


Sydney Bloggers Meetup

I’m planning on attending the next Sydney Bloggers Meetup, the weekend after next. There are only a couple of people currently signed up to attend, though. Here’s hoping we can bump those numbers up! I’m sure there are plenty of bloggers in this city who need another excuse for a cold beer.


My last London Blogger Meetup: Mojito Madness

Last night was another nifty London Blogger Meetup; it was also my last.

It was held at Chamucos, a basement Cuban bar underneath the Green and Red Restaurant on Bethnal Green Road. The east end location seemed to stymie lots of people, since only about 35 of the 150 promised attendees showed up. Probably just as well, though, since it would have been a sweaty mob if any more folks had been there.

Judith Lewis spoke about search engine optimisation, and I was asked to speak about my blogging experiences. I am loathe to take the spotlight, but was eventually persuaded to say a few words.

The whole night was sponsored by global Cuban arts and Havana Club rum initiative Havana Cultura, which I’ve blogged about before. They kicked off a competition (a Twitter Treasure Hunt Campaign launching October 19th), mentioned their Gilles Peterson Havana Cultura CD launch  (October 26th), gave away some prizes to attendees, and gave us all the free mojitos we could drink. Which, it turns out, is a lot of mojitos. They also gave us all goody bags of lime, mint, and rum to make our own at home.

London Bloggers has been really good to me. It’s balanced just right for me, informative yet social. Organiser Andy Bargery has turned it into something thriving and useful and fun, and is a genuinely nice guy, too. I hope these meetups continue to flourish; I’m going to miss them.

You lookin at me, punk?

"You lookin' at me, punk?"

Youre getting veeeery sleeepy...and not just because youre bored.

"You're getting veeeery sleeepy...and not just because you're bored."

Hey, bartender: would you mind not throwing those bottles around while Im back here?

"Hey, bartender: would you mind not throwing those bottles around while I'm back here?"

All the above photos were taken by awesome London blogger Peter Marshall.

  1. Twitter Treasure Hunt Campaign (launching October 19th)
  2. Gilles Peterson Havana Cultura CD Launch (October 26th)

Stuff I’ve done – and people I’ve met – in London

As my stay in London comes to a close I’ve naturally been reflective about my UK adventure.

I’ve been thinking about all the excellent live music I’ve seen; that’ll be an upcoming topic for my other blog, The Plummet Onions. But I’ve also been thinking a lot about the associations I’ve made here: all the people and groups that I’m now connected to, and better for, simply because I moved here in February 2001.

The most important of all is obviously my amazing wife, whom I met in November 2001. There are also the really good friends I’ve made via that relationship, flatmates and friends of hers, people that I now count amongst my best friends: PC, the She-Aussie, the Colombians, and others. We also have some good friends in the Neighbours. I’ll leave it at that, since – despite appearances – I don’t actually live my entire life on the internet.

I’ve made some good friends at work here: the Scotsman, the Other Scotsman, and the Other Other Scotsman (see the trend?) especially. There are definitely some folks I’ll keep in touch with, and Facebook and LinkedIn make that easy to do.

It’s important to say that I’ve kept in touch with my closest friends back in Canada since moving here, and that’s not going to change. We never talk as much as I’d like, but I get to see them now and again and we email all the time and I know they read my blog. I’m not letting them go.

There are also some groups I’ve connected with that have resulted in some really good times and friendships here in London. One of those was Echoing the Sound, a Nine Inch Nails fan discussion forum. I was quite busy on there for a few years during the productive recording and touring period for NIN. I’m not on there much anymore, but the common thread of the band meant I got to know some new, cool people all around the world. And the London shows meant I got to meet a lot of them here for lots of Good Times™.

A couple of years ago I also started attending thlbme London Blogger Meetups because I felt a little isolated in my blog writing. It was a small group when I started, but under the guiding hand of Andy Bargery it’s grown into a waiting-list, sponsor-pursued social networking event. I’ve gotten to know lots of good people via that gathering. Andy’s even been kind enough to ask me to say a few words at my last LBM tomorrow night.

The LBM has been a gateway for some other fun, friendly, and beneficial associations, particularly with Qype UK. If you read this blog you know that I was getting invited to a lot of food, fun and drink events with them. They’re a very good gang of folks as well. And that in turn has spawned occasional invitations to food and drink blogger events with Relish PR.

And all of those channels have spawned Twitter connections, some of which have turned into real-life connections of various types.

Some of the things I’ve been involved with in London have been temporary, of course: not everything produces life-long friends. I really enjoyed the many evenings I spent at Birkbeck College getting my Certificate in Philosophy, and the few weeks I spent at the London College of Contemporary Music learning to play the bass guitar.

People often complain that it’s hard to get to know people or make new friends in London. And maybe that’s true, relative to other places where people are less guarded. But it’s certainly not impossible to extend your network of acquaintances, and maybe even make some real pals.

You’re ace, London.


Belgo Oktoberfest 2009

Belgian beer-hall restaurants Belgo are putting on a special Oktoberfest menu during the coming month. A few of us got a chance to preview that menu tonight at the Covent Garden location, Belgo Centraal.

The full menu is listed below. You get to pick one from each course, and each dish is paired with a different Belgian beer. The courses shown in bold are the ones I had tonight. It costs £27.50 per person (min 2 people per table, max 10) for all three courses and beers; it’s £19.95 without the beers.


  • Shelled mussels in a cream & De Koninck monay sauce with julienne of vegetables in a pastry case (paired with Brugs Wit)
  • Asparagus spears with a Brugs white beer & chive sauce (paired with Vedett Extra Blond)
  • Chicken liver terrine with a raspberry beer chutney (paired with De Koninck)
  • Belgian cheese croquettes made with Orval trappist beer (paired with Orval)


  • Pork belly cooked in Brugs Witbier served with spinach & butternut squash and a Rodenbach Grand Cru cream sauce (paired with Cristal)
  • Braised beef cooked in Faro beer, nutmeg and brown sugar (paired with Mort Subite Gueuze)
  • A puff pastry case filled with wild mushrooms and button onions, in an Orval beer with truffle cream sauce (paired with Steenbrugge Blond)
  • Mussels cooked in a Brugs Witbeer with bacon lardons served with frites (paired with Affligem Blonde)
  • Sautéed cod with steamed mussels in a Jupiler beer and chive broth (paired with Steenbrugge Witbier)

DESSERTS (all paired with Fruli Strawberry)

  • Pear poached in cherry beer served with a peach beer sorbet
  • Belgian dark chocolate cheesecake on a biscuit base with cherry beer coulis
  • Autumn berries set in raspberry beer jelly

I like this idea: I like the pairings of courses with beers, I like the amount – and variety – of choice. And I like the idea of a Belgian twist to Oktoberfest.

My starter was the biggest success. The terrine was smooth and tasty, well accompanied by the chutney, and the De Koninck was like washing it down with caramel. My mussels were very good, too: Shetland, plump and sweet. The Affligem wasn’t a challenging beer, but mussels don’t need a powerful counterpoint like, for instance, the beef does.

It would have been nice to have something other than Fruli, though, to go with an otherwise excellent dessert. Fruli’s become fairly commonplace in London gastropubs and most people find it difficult to drink any amount of it at all.

Belgo itself is a loud, elbow-to-elbow experience, of course. Not a place for a romantic dinner. But a great place for a chatty social meal.

It’s a good menu, and there are some fun beers to try, espcially when they’re explained by a server dressed as a monk. Make sure you’re good and hungry, though, because all the dishes are big and hearty and filling, and the beers even more so. Unless you’re ravenous you’re not going to finish it all. And given the price you don’t want to waste anything.

Photo from Daquella manera via Creative Commons license

Photo from Daquella manera via Creative Commons license


London Blogger Meetup

I was at another London Blogger Meetup last night. This one was sponsored by eBay UK. They bought all of the attendees several rounds of drinks and grub; had a raffle for a netbook, some 3G dongles, and memory sticks; ran a couple of buy-it-now sales for us attendees only; and did a little marketing spiel on some of their newer features like their daily 8am deals.

As always, I had fun hobnobbing with friends old and new. There seems to be a trend of sweatbox LBMs, though, and this one at Farringdon’s Ember bar was no exception.