Random Reviews

'Come Dine With Me' Special

title image

The main courses will be out in a minute....

Everyone's seen the Channel 4 blockbuster 'Come Dine With Me', haven't they?

The series where strangers selected specifically for their ability to annoy each other take part in a series of drunken dinner parties during the course of a week, then score each others' efforts?

Well, even if you haven't you probably get the gist by now.

Inspired by this concept, Cookery Corner has recently taken part in a series of dinner parties held by a group of close friends, who also all happen to be couples.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Cookery Corner will review each attempt, and bestows upon the winner the accolade of Cookery Corner 'Come Dine With Me' Champion!

If you want to get to know the contestants then read the Preview first - it's worth the effort, honest!

Anyway, without further ado....

LET THE REVIEWS BEGIN!

Tracey Portrait

Tracey's menu was actually the best one,
but sadly I've lost it so you'll have to
make do with this picture instead. Sorry.

Week 1: Tracey

Tracey made it clear from the start what her plan was. Simply put the formula consisted of relatively easy to prepare cuisine, leaving all the more opportunity to consume industrial quantities of booze. Guests were greeted, true to form, with champagne cocktails and a smattering of tasty canapes, before we were invited to settle down at the table.

Less is More

The high point of the menu was definitely the main course of chicken and prawn skewers on a bed of chorizo rice. Full of flavour and leaving me wanting more. But then that's not unusual. The starter of a large portobello mushroom under a layer of a home made tomato sauce topped with cheese was something I enjoyed, but wasn't very exciting... unlike the booze sodden syllabub, a noble attempt at a first dessert and a fitting finale which your reviewer certainly appreciated, the half bottle of amoretto in each portion nicely masking any potential sweetness. It would have to be said I'm not really a dessert man..

Booze Hounds

The main focus of the meal on this, the first evening, was inevitably on drinking vast quantities of wine. I must confess to, at one point, absent-mindedly and repeatedly draining my glass of the tastiest wine intended for a toast. Still, when you're drinking you're drinking... the hostess did an excellent job of looking after the guests without neglecting to join in the revelry, and all the courses arrived in good time - incredible since it had all been done whilst fending off a particularly demanding 3-year-old all day long.

The Good Life

Tracey was a very attentive if inebriated hostess, ably making the guests do things they didn't really want to, which in this case consisted of playing very drunken Charades. There isn't really any other way of playing Charades is there? Either way it was a nice throwback to simpler times, when men wore brown cardigans and women got tipsy on a glass of babycham.

As the evening drew to a close, further consumption of alcoholic beverages and a generous donation of some of Stew's finest Cuban cigars rounded off a perfectly executed evening. Well as far as I can remember anyway. It all got a bit hazy towards the end...

Best things: Attentive hostess, slick execution
Worst things: Unambitious menu.

Verdict: FUN

Rowland Menu

This wouldn't look out
of place at Claridges
Click for large version

Rowland Dress Code

Look at the attention to detail..
Click for large version

Week 2: Rowland

You'll have to excuse me if I talk about myself in the third person. It only seems fair though.

Rowland, from the start, took almost the opposite approach to Tracey. The overarching ambition of his Gallic inspired menu was matched only by his obvious and abject lack of adequate preparation. As the guests arrived the table had not been laid, and the canapes of pork, apple and mint bites wrapped in parma ham were still in the fridge, disguised as their still raw component parts. It took 45 minutes and a great deal of moaning on behalf of the guests before the canapes were finally served.

Ramsey

The highlight of the meal was the starter, which consisted of an incredibly ambitious, rich and flavoursome game terrine, although being totally frank I was also totally astonished at how well the dessert turned out. The main course was something of a disappointment; Tracy was particularly keen to point out how the Dauphinouise Potatoes utterly overpowered the accompanying chicken. She's a competitive one, that girl, so I was secretly flattered..

Work in Progress

During the course of the evening, the cat had seen more of the host than anyone else, as it successfully waited for food to hit the floor. Rowland was also stone cold sober, whilst his abandoned guests were becoming rowdy and intransigent, drinking abundantly in the absence of anything else to do duing the monumental gaps between courses. Glasses initially were only refilled as a result of prolonged hectoring from alcohol deprived guests, as Rowland toiled in the kitchen. It was only a matter of time before they took matters into their own hands; as they did so Rowland dished out the verbals for transgressing into his domain.

Shoes

Because of his delays and general cack-handedness Rowland could be held indirectly responsible for the incapacity of his guests towards the end of the evening. By the time the dessert arrived, at nigh on 1am, Gill and Tina were both fast asleep and Tracey was unable to put her own shoes on. Magnificent though the Tarte Tartin was, nobody was sober enough to remember it. In fact, come to think of it, Tracy was pretty hazy on the main as well. Worse still, the guests were all in taxis before Rowland could roll out the hastily prepared Wii Fit Yoga Challenge. Ah, well. Maybe next time.

Best things: Starter and dessert could well merit a place on Masterchef.
Worst things: Complete disorganisation, general absentness and overpowering potatoes.

Verdict: Gastro-shambles

Gill Menu Front

Not content with merely being a closet
chef, Gill is also a closet artist..
Click for large version

Gill Menu Back

Enough to get anyone's juices flowing.
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Week 3: Gill

Gill's evening promised to be a bit like a box of chocolates. You've all seen that movie, right? The menu loooked promising, but could he cook? Could he really? A number of the guests, namely Rowland, Tracey and Stew, decided to get started with a quick bottle of wine, before even arriving at the venue. Thus lubricated,anything could happen..

Goodbye Sugar

In the end, the food was pretty good. The homemade Japanese spring rolls may have raised eyebrows when they appeared on the menu, but they actually just about held together, and the selection of dipping sauces that had been expertly picked out of the supermarket complemented the vegetables wonderfully. The main of Rolled Pork was also very tasty, and the noodles to accompany it were excellently spicy. The dessert was a bit much though. Hugely sweet and incredibly rich, Tracey immediately vomited and I was very close to being sick in the taxi on the way home, as was Demerera. Gill and Stew had seconds... mentalists.

As a host Gill was polite and attentive, the general level of inebriation testament to his glass refilling skills. The only blot on the evening was when the main course was precededed by the room filling with burning hot chilli fumes, leading to much coughing and opening of windows.

Live Explosion

You can imagine the excitement amongst the guests when the promised 'explosive interlude' turned out to be a fireworks display! How we 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' as 4 or 5 small bangs echoed through the night, and a couple of glittery trails struggled up into the sky. Your reviewer stood well away and tried not to fall over backwards, in the style of a penguin watching a helicopter, as he looked upwards.

The evening ended somewhat abrubtly, half the guests finding it expedient to make a swift exit, the Banoffe Pie and wine proving a devastating combination. Gill could still afford to be satisfied with a job well done.

Best things: Nice Ambience, starter and main worked well.
Worst things: Mad crazy dessert.

Verdict: Competent

Stew Menu

This is the menu of a man
who takes his food seriously
Click for large version

Week 4: Stew

Stew's menu was smart. He was challenging himself, even going as far as making his own ketchup. He was also playing to the crowd with the beef stew and the fry up. It wasn't so complicated that it was likely to end in disaster. Now, although my memory is actually quite patchy regarding what happened during the course of the evening, I'm also quite sure that no matter how poor my memories of the occasion, they are unlikely to be a swiss-cheesed as those of Gill and Tina. In a determined attempt to outdo our pre-dinner drinking the previous time out, they appeared to have spent the entire afternoon in the pub in preparation. This was never going to end well.

Stew Beef

The food was strong across the board, and I was particularly fond of the starter - few would be brave enough to attempt a kind of layered fry up and aubergine thing, but this really worked because the aubergine cut through all the stodge. It was almost as tasty as Rowland's Terrine. The main course wasn't very brave, but then you can't argue with it - everyone loves a nice tasty Beef Bourguingnon! My main quibble was with the dessert - as with Gill's, it was a little on the sweet side. Individually the peach pie and home-made ice-cream may have worked but together I nearly passed out from the sugar rush.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz

Stew was a very helpful host, but just probably spent a little too much time in the kitchen - no-where near as much as Rowland, mind. He was also handicapped by Gill falling into an unconscious stupor before the main even came out. He had to be physically removed to the sofa for the remainder of the evening, where his snoring was a contstant menace. Tina wasn't looking too clever either - if the heavy drinking on their part was a clever ruse to deny Stew votes through becoming unconscious, it was definitely working.

Pants

The entertainment was a definite high point of the evening. It consisted largely of 2 ladies wearing dresses assuming unflattering poses in an attempt to pick up a cornflake box from the floor with their teeth. Top marks for that one!

A bit of Wii fit fun, consumption of remaining beef and drinking of drinkables later, I couldn't help noticing that Tracey had disappeared. Demerera soon spotted her, at the top of the stairs stripped out of her dress. She'd clearly had enough, and so had everyone else. We prised Gill into a taxi and went home.

Best things: Starter was a revelation, as was the entertainment...
Worst things: Dessert wasn't my cup of tea; Gill's snoring.

Verdict: Close but no cigars left

Tina Menu

Unfortunately, as I write this, I haven't
yet had my dinner. HUNGRY!!!
Click for large version

Week 5: Tina

Tina's dinner party promised to be stripped down and focussed on the food, rather like myself most evenings. This was largely because the drunken mess 'thing' had, by this point, become a bit passe. The focus removed from booze, everyone made a decent effort at adding a 'hint of winter sparkle' to their dress, and for about the first time it all began to feel rather civilised.

Beautiful Tart

Now I've had some nice tarts in my time, let me assure you, but Tina's work on this front surpassed them all. I liked the tart so much I asked for another portion. And she obliged with a very large portion. Etc etc.... The main was nice too, once we worked out that beef olives were in fact big hunks of beef stuffed like an olive rather than just big, beefy olives - marvellous. The creme brulee tasted pretty much how it was supposed to, although I don't really have much to compare it to. I must admit normally by dessert at any meal in any dining room or restaurant I am either too full of meat to bother, or too drunk to notice.

Tina was a very efficient hostess, although perhaps a little anxious about what the guests thought of the main - as was clear from Rowland's dinner party, if they weren't satisfied they would certianly have stepped in with some critique! All the same, the gaps between courses were well judged and everyone's glass was kept well topped up.

Cod Philosophy

As I managed to keep relatively sober throughout the evening, I was able to take the time to look around the guests, to appreciate them fully. These were the people with whom I had shared this culinary journey to date; I had learned to love them and share their hopes, dreams and (most often) disappointments - in short all those most delicate of components which comprise the rich tapestry of our all too fleeting existence. It was a beautiful thing.

In leisurely fashion, we finished our consuming, congratulated the host and strolled out to the waiting cabs at the end of the evening, and then we all went home. It was almost like a normal dinner party.

Best things: Favourite starter, deep insights.
Worst things: Everybody was far too well behaved.

Verdict: Civilised

Tina Menu

Minimalism fused with a
daring colour scheme. Nice.
Click for large version

Week 6: Demerera

Demerera's menu was printed almost a week in advance of the dinner party. Demerera had prepared most of the more complex elements of her South-East Asian inspired dishes days in advance. Demerera had, in short, been cheating - if not in word then in spirit. On the day of the dinner party I was furiously jealous of the relaxed couple of hours she spent pottering in the kitchen, as compared to my 14 hour marathon panicked stint. I was still trying to find a clean shirt whilst the guests arrived and started tucking into her exquisite home-made Dim Sung parcel thingies with an equally exquisite home-made sweet chilli dipping sauce. Surely nothing could go wrong for her?

Food Last Short Time

Of course it wouldn't. There was little to find fault with any of the courses, although naturally I've had a good go.

The starter of Tom Yum Gung achieved a nice balance of spiciness, although the stock was a little meat heavy for my taste - I prefer a bit more bite. Also the Beef Mussaman curry, although very nice indeed, certainly wasn't the best she's ever done, and was also something of a safe choice for her. Finally, the Lime Cheesecake was a bit desserty for my liking. Ah that's clutching at straws, isn't it?

Love us Long Time

Even more annoyingly, as a hostess Demerera did very well - at the start of the evening, before I had even dressed myself she was in the living room chatting away with the guests and drinking wine, the starter presumably miraculously preparing itself. She'd even pulled out a little living room sized water feature to give the room an oriental air. Dammit.... ahem. As at all the dinner party apart from Rowland's, guests were well looked after - Demerera even left deliberately longer gaps between courses than she needed so that eveyone could have a nice chat and get more drunk! That's ruthless efficiency for you.

The entertainment for the evening consisted of a remarkable one-sided game of 'Articulate', in which the boys trounced the significantly worse for wear girls (OK one girl in particular - we can pretty much guess who, right?).

Following the game's all too swift conclusion, drinking and other such consumption continued long into the early hours of the night, and Demerera could reflect on a job well done.

Best things: The food.
Worst things: The humiliation

Verdict: Pretty much flawless.