REVIEW: Marrocco's Restaurant, Hove

Ok, so the ice cream at Fusciardi's in Eastbourne got me a-thinking. Brighton has got to have the good stuff too, huh? Then I remembered walking past Marrocco's a couple of years ago and thought I should pay it a visit.

The interior is cool. I love the little retro booth seating and it is as close to a classic café you will get to in Brighton. You have to budge past the lengthy queue of people waiting for counter served ice cream and drool at the sundae menu as you go through to your table. It's a really cosy little place.

As it was lunchtime we decided to make a meal of it so also ordered one of their pizzas and a salad. The salad was good and nicely dressed and the pizza, once I had scraped half the cheese off it was...meh. They look good, the bases crisp but tasteless and not the worst I have eaten lately but what's a girl gotta do for a really decent pizza around here? Especially for almost £8. There was a steady stream of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches being ordered and breakfasts are served til 1pm but I can't say I'll be running back for the hot food anytime soon.

But the reason I came here–along with practically all of Hove it seemed–was for the ice cream. This place has been open since 1969 and has created a bit of a reputation for being the best place in town for ice cream and I think it's well deserved. I like that it refuses to sell any commercial ice creams and why would it with 24 flavours of homemade Italian ice cream. I opted for the pistachio (of course) and the lemon sorbet, both of which were fantastic and the pistachio ever so slightly pips Fusciardi's to the post as it was nuttier. Also, being the sentimental old fool that I am, I thought the Italian flag was a nice touch.

Next time I'll forgoe the sensible savory lunch option and order me one of the "Gondola" ice cream sundaes as, at just a pathetic two flavours down, I don't think my work here is quite done.

The Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe

I got an email the other day for a chocolate chip cookie recipe which was supposed to have cost the original recipient $250. Pricey but intriguing. I was going to have to make these...

To cut a long story short, a lady and her daughter were enjoying the cookies at the Neiman-Marcus Café in Dallas so much they asked the waitress for the recipe. It turns out the recipe was available to purchase for the bargain price of "two-fifty". When the lady got her credit card statement thirty days later the cookie recipe was listed not as $2.50 as she had understood, but $250.00. When she tried to get the money back, the NM accounts team refused her as she had already seen the recipe. As her revenge, the lady decided to distribute the Neiman-Marcus recipe by way of an email chain, encouraging everyone to pass it on.

Here it is:

The recipe makes a lot of cookies so halve or quarter unless you are the Cookie Monster. I made a quarter and got 22 decent cookies. I've worked out everything in grams for us UKers.

2 cups (450g) butter
4 cups (440g) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups (400g) sugar
5 cups (400g) blended oatmeal
24 ounces (680g) chocolate chips
2 cups (400g) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) (225g) grated chocolate
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups (300g) chopped nuts (your choice)

1. Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.
2. Cream the butter and both sugars.
3. Add eggs and vanilla.
4. Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda.
5. Add chocolate chips, grated chocolate and nuts.
6. Roll into balls and place 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 10 minutes at 375°F / 190°C or until golden.

I like this story and the recipe does in fact yield some darn fine cookies. You can imagine the sugar rotting away your teeth–the sign of a good cookie–and they aren't too chocolaty, despite having two kinds in it.

But the sceptic in me got me a-Googling. Turns out this email has been circulating since 1996 at a time when Neiman-Marcus didn't even sell chocolate chip cookies. It also reflects another popular urban legend about a recipe for a red velvet cake from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel which cost $25, big bucks in the 40's from when the story started.

The story is now so famous that Neiman-Marcus got their chefs to create a real cookie recipe which they happily distribute (free of charge of course) so great publicity for them. I do like these stories, I guess it's how recipes are passed from person to person and I can think of worse subjects in my spam mail!

Review: Oregano Pizzeria, Brighton

Sweet mercy. The horrors bestowed upon the poor pizza almost has me re-enacting the famous arms in the air "Whhhhyyyyy..." Platoon scene. The origins of the pizza as a humble, peasant dish have been long forgotten and you are more than likely to find it pumped up, crust stuffed, as thick as a paving slab and topped with an all manner of bonkers ingredients like Peking duck, fruit or hotdogs (even all at once) before being lashed with buckets of pre-grated processed cheese and served with a cream cheese and chive dipping sauce. Eek!

My joint winners of the most offensive pizza of late has to go to mock-New York Italian restaurant, Frankie & Benny's (yeah, I was desperate) whose interpretation of this dish was a soggy, almost omelette-like base (I'm guessing frozen origins) and had a grease waterfall when you picked it up. I didn't have the misfortune to order the pizza from The Hope pub on Queens Road like my colleagues did the other week but let's just say that if it's true you eat with your eyes first then I was temporarily blinded anorexic.

A good pizza should remain upright when picked up and sound hollow on the base when tapped. Generally you only get this if it has been cooked in a wood burning oven.

Oregano's in Brighton's Old Steine is a wood burning pizzeria from which you can get a very fine pizza. The inside has been decorated to mimic a traditional pizzeria with lots of wood and has just six tables. Now the other good thing about this pizzeria is that the pizzas are about £5 each which you can't argue with and along with a couple of Peroni's will see you good for a tenner. The thing is, this place is great but comes with certain caveats. The only pizza I repeatedly order from here is the prosciutto crudo (in the picture), a delicious topping of salty prosciutto and parmesan on a scant tomato sauce base and topped with fresh rocket at the end. The bases are chewy and rigid and all is wonderful.

But–and it is a big but–when I have deviated away from this choice I have been really disappointed and they do cater for odd people who like odd toppings (you know who you are). There is only one wine choice of each type which is cheap but I would pay a bit more for better. Also, the starters of chicken wings and potato wedges are takeaway standard at best so don't bother. That aside, I would (and do) often go back for my favourite pizza. The only takeaway I have ever ordered was pizza from Oregano's from the days of renovating my flat sans kitchen. So I would recommend this place? Absolutely. But with a big fat asterix.

It's position on the Old Steine has not done it any favours and had this place been in The Lanes it would be serious competition for Brighton's cheese-on-toast-style pizzerias. That may be why is is up for lease but with a few tweaks and adjustments this place could be transformed by new owners into the place for pizza in town.

Open (for now anyway) for takeaway or eat-in.
Oregano 19 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1EL Tel:01273 677377

Letterpress recipe cards and box

I can't tell you how much I want these letterpress recipe cards!

REVIEW: Bill's Produce Store, Brighton

Opening up Bill's for dinner is a fine idea. Lunch here in the week is nigh on impossible as it is so busy. I have never returned after my first (and only) visit had me waiting 50 minutes for my lunch order, leaving me 5 minutes to ram it down my neck like a fois gras goose whilst being surrounded by the uncontrolled squarking offspring of Hove's yummy mummies. Stressful.

The setting for dinner is fantastic as you are surrounded by gorgeous fresh produce, glittering packets of Spanish biscuits and shiny jars packed with artichokes. This was sure making me hungry.

Booking is advised as the open tables for passers-by are situated at the front of the store by the large doors which they can't/won't close so it is freezing. This place used to be a bus depot so it's not exactly insulated and dining with your coats on isn't ideal. Their current solution to this is to offer hot water bottles for your lap (yes). Also, they have rammed as many tables in as possible (cha-ching) but should have left the very front area clear, especially as those waiting are free to loom over you as you eat. Less tables and I don't know, a door you can close. Just an idea.

For our table of four we ordered the mezze plate and the Iberico chacuterie board to start. The £15.55 for the meats was a bit shocking especially when it tuned up with 4 very thin slices of each meat. But my, oh my, it was so tasty that I completely forgave the ludicrous cost of it. The bread and quality of balsamic and olive oil were top notch. The vege mezze were good too and four of us feasted like kings.

On to the mains and my companions ordered the moussaka and steak pie, both of which looked and tasted wonderful, but my main of lamb shank with a tangy Moroccan inspired stew full of plump butter beans was stunning. The meat was super tender and everything was cooked beautifully.

We were so stuffed that ordering desert at this stage bordered on the sadistic but we ordered a portion of cheesecake between us all and this turned up:

...and it tasted as good as it looked. A proper cheesecake. Not too sweet and textured. Perfect.

Bill's has had fantastic success and I like the fact that it was the brain child of a bloke called, er, Bill who ran a greengrocery on the original Lewis site. Despite my little narks about the place, the important thing is that their passion for fresh, quality produce is unquestionable, it really is a temple for foodies to worship.

Homemade bagels

How's about these? My first attempt at bagels!

I don't know why I have never tried to make bagels before, they look difficult but at the end of the day they are just rolls with holes. In my total ignorance I have only recently discovered that bagels are boiled first which I think is what inspired me to make them. They were super easy to do although the bit in the recipe about making a hole with a wooden spoon then twirling them round it to get the hole size was a bit of a faff. You can shape them easier with your fingers.

I was quite chuffed with these and didn't deviate too much from the recipe but think there is room for improvement and when I come up with a refined version I shall post it up here.

Happy Bagel Friday everyone!


I just had to post up these utterly bizarre "canapés" from the Seven Stars pub birthday do last night.

What the chimichanga were they thinking? The party cupcake cases were bordering on mental even before we get to the food. Sausage and mash canapés. Yes, how attractive you must seem, chatting away to your companion whilst shoving a sausage in your mouth then frantically covering yourself with a mash and gravy mixture as your paper cupcake case disintegrates in your hand. As for the visual aspect of it all well, lets just say a picture speaks a thousand words...

I get the concept. It was a pub and this was a mini version of their menu - scampi and fries, mini beef burgers, lentil burgers, pies... nothing wrong with that–we weren't at the Ritz–but if you are introducing potentially new customers to your menu think about it for a second and make it the best you possibly can.

The best canapés I ever had were at a function in the Hotel Du Vin in town when I think the waiter gave up me stalking him and just stood next to me as I cleared the plate. Stuffed figs, tiny crabcakes, filled mange touts... and there was not a sausage in sight.

FAO The Graphic Foodie

Brown (or in this case white) packages tied up with string, these are just a few of my favorite things...

Another one of my favorite things is receiving gifts of food so imagine my delight in unwrapping this gorgeous package via Le France from my darling friends* at Folded Sheet & Glacier Project?

Inside were three bars of Dolfin chocolate. I have never tried Dolfin chocolate or knew anything about it. But it turns out it was set up in 1989 by two Belgian brothers who have a family history of chocolate making and the Dolfin brand are naturally flavoured bars of chocolate where the ingredients are added directly to the chocolate mass. It's a lovely, shiny, dark chocolate with a really great "snap". Now chocolate is all about the snap. No snap, no good. This is because when the cocoa butter quantity is high, breaking off a piece produces a nice sharp snap. When cheap vegetable fats have been added it creates a duller sound. So there you go. Just don't go around snapping bars in the store.

The three bars in my package were orange & spice, coffee and earl grey flavours. Now earl grey tea flavoured chocolate is one of my favorites as it happens. I first tried it in Belgium at the fabulous Pierre Marcolini store where I bought an eye-wateringly expensive box of chocolates that turned out to be worth every penny. It sounded odd but it is the perfect after dinner chocolate and the Dolfin brand is no different. I still have the coffee flavour to try but can vouch for the other two especially the zingy crystals in the orange & spice bar.

I always think it's best to buy the best chocolate you can because you eat less of it (yes really) as it is so rich and in moderation, is good for you (yes really) as it is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

The other good thing about Dolfin chocolate is that it comes in very clever packaging that you fold round and seal so it stays fresh and am loving the colours of the wrappers. Winner!

*I miss these ladies so much since they departed Brighton for the mountains of France but mostly because I have lost some serious dinner party buddies. I used to love the casual texts inviting me over for a bit to eat and they introduced me to a whole host of scrummy vegan food (yes, you read that right!) What better way to spend time than with your friends around the dinner table? That roasted cherry tomato soup...

Happy Bagel Day!

Our studio has a weekly Friday treat tradition to have bagels for breakfast which has expanded into actually renaming Fridays "Bagel Day" and greeting each other with joyful "Happy Bagel Day" without fail. We even take turns emailing around a new bagel fact each week.

There is even talk of a collaborative Bagel Friday website.

Yes it really is the simple things in life...

REVIEW: Fusciardi's Ice Cream Parlour, Eastbourne

I like marathons. I like them because whilst Mr. Graphic Foodie is running them I get to hunt out nice tea rooms and eateries in places I do not normally find myself in. Everyone is indeed a winner.

This weekend for the Eastbourne half marathon, I got to go to one of the places that has been on my hit list for quite some time. The run started very early and ice cream for breakfast is a bit naughty but caution went to the wind and hopefully noone will grass me up to my mum.

Fusciardi's is a lovely little parlour that has has exceedingly good Italian ice cream and British classic cafe fare. But I was only after the ice cream of which they have a great variety of classic and more unusual flavours. My top ice cream flavour (apart from Fior di Latte which is a bit hard to get outside Italy) is pistachio so if that is on offer I always choose it. Saying that, I also had a scoop of their popular honeycombe flavour for good measure! Unusually, the pistachio ice cream also had almond flakes in it which had softened gorgeously and the chunks of honeycombe were huge submerged in the creamy gorgeousness of the ice cream.

The parlour interior is quite retro and although they have been there for years and years I don't know how original it all is (anyone?) but I loved the deco inspired pink and gold panelling on the walls, Formica tables and gold Fusciardi arch in the back.

They also do light snacks, hot drinks and massive elaborate sundaes which tempted me but that would have been a totally outrageous breakfast.

It's a great place to visit, rain (most likely) or shine.

Fusciardi Ice Cream Parlour
30 Marine Parade
East Sussex BN22 7AY

REVIEW: The Chilli Pickle, Brighton

Please note that The Chilli Pickle has now moved to 17 Jubilee Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1GE at Myhotel

Well folks, it is a rare day where I struggle to find anything to complain about or that niggles me when visiting a restaurant, be it the food or interior, but I think the day may have finally come.

The Chilli Pickle Indian bistro has not been long open and I have been hearing some very good things about it and for once, you should believe the hype.

The interior is a winner. They have recreated India with a Brighton twist which works a treat and is delightfully void of any moving waterfall pictures. The colours and textures have been inspired by the vibrant Indian street scenes, saris and street architecture. I love the teal and magenta scheme with a splash of orange here and there. Bright but tasteful... full marks so far.

For starters we ordered the Cauliflower & Chilli Pakora which were spicy and crispy and the Tandoor Spiced Quail, which was ordered because we saw it being served upon entering and looked great. It also had a good kick and was very succulent.

Mains were Fenugreek Chicken and an Oxtail Madras both of which were fab but the oxtail (winner of "can you handle the heat challenge 2008") had the edge. Why you don't find more oxtail on the menu in restaurants is beyond me especially when is it is cooked slowly as this madras was, making the meat knife-redundant tender. If I were a betting lass I would say that this may become the Chilli Pickle's signature dish if it isn't already. The gravy was rich and very spicy and the yoghurt accompaniment was very welcome but when I say spicy you could taste the depth of flavour over the heat and was not in any way akin to a tasteless volcanic geezer-vindaloo.

The sides on offer had me licking my lips, in particular the smoked aubergine crush and the curry leaf semolina, although all mains are served with sides which have been chosen perfectly to go with the specific meals.

Portions were perfect and dessert was not needed but that's never a good enough excuse not to order one, so we also had some curd dumplings soaked in maple syrup and served with cardamon ice cream. Holy-moly they were fantastic.

The beer menu here is super and you'll find some good IPA's, wheat and fruit beers from Belgian and British micro breweries. They also get their wine from the independent wine merchant, Festival Wines, who source wine from small producers worldwide which is a nice touch.

It is easy to see when the food and experience in a restaurant is served up with passion. Brightonian Alun Sperring has spent twenty-odd years travelling around the world gaining culinary inspiration before coming back and opening up the Chilli Pickle and I am jolly glad that he did. You can tell these guys are keen to make a really good first impression and they have made it for me.

Price-wise I think it was decent value for money and I'm definitely going back for seconds, possibly to sample the delights from their Indian street food day menu.