Saturday, November 28, 2009


Must give a mention to Culux (Curry Deluxe), on Rudolfplatz. Currywurst is practically a German national dish, but the relationship to what any english person knows as "curry", i.e. indian food, is slight. It's simply a sausage with a basic, spicy, ketchup-like sauce made from curry powder. Usually served as a take-away snack on a small paper plate, maybe with chips (pommes), to be eaten on the street with a two-pronged, plastic fork. Being a food, and especially curry, snob I steered well clear of this particular food for a long time.

However, I had my first ever Currywurst in Culux a few weeks ago, on the recommendation of a friend, and it has got me hooked. Basically, you mix and match the sausage, sauce flavour and hotness, and style and topping of your chips to create your ideal snack meal. The sausages, as with all german ones, are large, meaty and tasty, and there is a good variety to choose from (Bratwurst to Chorizo to Tofu). The sauce is still basic, but actually pretty good, again with a wide variety of flavours.  The chips are hot and fresh and crispy and generally excellent.  You can have your currywurst topping anywhere from mild to super-, mega-, or ultra- spicy (which comes with an age limit and a disclaimer of responsibility for the effects on your health). Personally, I'll stick in the middle with just "hot", I'm not looking to impress anyone.  The staff are cheerful and friendly too, which is always a plus.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

iPod random question meme

[inspired by Monika]
1. Put your iPod or i tunes library, or MP3 player etc... on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer. (I picked random questions from someone else's site)
3. You must write that song name down no matter how silly it sounds.  (The silliness is rather the point, however, see My Life Story below)


The Norwegians Gave me a F# (Deaf Center / Carlo Fashion)

No Trust in a Man (Andrew Cronshaw)

mur (Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto)

Dischordzilla (Luke Vibert and BJ Cole)

Bamboo (Outkast)

Mali Sajio (Songhai)

Ring of Stars (Lights Out Asia)

Matagorda (Black Before Red)


Needle in the Camel's Eye (Brian Eno)


All in All (Roy Harper)


Waiting on an Angel (Ben Harper)


Trash Scapes (Ellen Allien)


Plexus Solaris (Tetsu Inoue and Carlos Vivanco)

Po-Boy (McGhee, Sonny Terry and Brownie)

Les Grandes Marches (Moderat)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Seven meals in Rome

Easting out on holiday in Rome was very enjoyable, if highly calorific.  Some of these places I can really recommend.

Tuesday - The guy at the hotel recommended some nearby places but I didn't like the look of them. One was a huge, soulless, empty space and another looked trendy and corporate (a bit like and Italian all-bar-one).  I finally spotted a place called Papa Baccus - pricey, but specializing in high quality meat such as Chianina beef, and ham from their own pigs. I had proscuitti, a fantastic fillet steak with onion sauce and chicory and apple sorbet with calvados. Their feature dish was a T-Bone at 75€ per kilo, clearly meant for sharing. I saw it being served in spectacular fashion to 2 or 3 tables.

Wednesday - Taverna Angelica.  Complementary glass of Prosecco on arrival has to be a good sign. Salted cod salad, pasta with clams and asparagus, crusted lamb cutlets, pineapple carpaccio.  Everything totally delicious. The pasta was especially good, perfectly cooked and with a light lemon sauce. I took their recommendations on wine (Merlot and a Muffato dessert wine) which turned out to be a very good idea. Service was fantastic, especially given that only 2 of them covered the whole restaurant.

Thursday - Pizza at Al Forno della Soffita, a really nice family run sort of place. Neopolitan style, which is what I would call thin crust, compared to the deep-pan chicago style, but apparently Roman style is even thinner. Strangely all the pizza restaurants recommended in my guide book served the Neopolitan style.  Plate of excellent ham to start, pizza amatriciana (bacon!) and fruit salad.  Not fancy but really, really good.

Friday - Not a good start to the evening. Two or three places refused to seat me because I was on my own. Sat down at one place and everything I asked for they didn't have, so I left again.  Finally get a nice terrace seat at Grano in a quiet piazza.  Anchovies and mozzarella salad, roasted chicken, millefoglie with mascarpone.  Not quite up to the standard of the earlier meals, but still really good.  Excellent grappa to finish.

Saturday - Stumble on a bar in Trastevere called Bir and Fud, promising artisanal Italian beer.  Unable to resist either the name or the interesting looking beer menu. Turned out to be a gem, and the find of the holiday. I had no idea there was such a range of excellent micro-brewery beers in Italy. Bitters, porters, stouts, wheat beers, they had them all.  To eat I had bar food, crisps, onion rings and a huge plate of fried cod pieces, hot and succulent in crispy batter and, to drink, way too much beer.

Sunday - Unable to resist Bir and Fud for early evening beers, but I decide to eat at another place recommended in the guide book, Difronte A. What a mistake. The only disappointment of the holiday. A real tourist trap with cheaply prepared, over-priced, flavour-free pseudo-food.  
Monday - No surprise back to Bir and Fud to sample their excellent ales. They are getting to recognise me and I end up in a really interesting discussion with one of the bar staff and one of the owners about all these different beers, plus getting some samples of a couple of beers they have in the cellar but aren't selling yet. There is also a phenomenal range of bottled beers, but sadly most in 75cl bottles.  I did try a couple of smaller ones though, and bought a barley-wine style beer called Geisha to take home.  For food I had a simply fantastic pizza with mushrooms and sausage. So good I was tempted to order another, but good sense prevailed (at least as far as not overeating goes... I could not honestly say I was quite as sensible about the amount of beer I drank). What a great bar!

If you go to Rome, I strongly recommend to try some of these place out, especially Bir and Fud.  Also worth a look are Moma (a good, office workers bar, with upstairs restaurant), Antica Enoteca (wine-bar with great snacks and lots of atmosphere), Caffe Sant'Eustachio (outstanding coffee prepared with a special, secret process) and La Coppelle (for cocktails and aperitivo in an attractive piazza).

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Holy Grail

I have just found what I consider to be the holy grail of an Englishman living in Europe... a decent curry.  I've been looking for a good Indian meal in Köln for a long time and I have been persistently disappointed by meals with little or no fresh ingredients, fierce one-dimensional spicing and too much reliance on tomato puree and MSG.
Finally, after giving up hope really, I tried the Kamasutra on the recommendation of a friend.  Hallelujah!  This was indian food as I remembered it from the UK.  Fresh tastes, nicely balanced spices and flavours, and everything beautifully cooked.

I had Kadhai Gosht (lamb), Bhindi Bhaji (okra), Pyaj Pakora (Onion Bhaji to you and me) and plain Naan. Portions were huge, so this was far too much for one person really, but I wanted to try a variety.  

There was a little too much sauce with the meat and bhindi for my personal taste (bhindi in particular benefits from being served with very little sauce, in my opinion) and the onion bhaji, although good, could have been a little smaller and crispier.  But these are minor quibbles with what was, on the whole an excellent meal.  

The meat was succulent and tender, with a sauce that was nicely hot but still let you taste the other ingredients.  The bhindi was cooked to perfection, which is rare in itself.  The naan was fluffy, fresh and hot.  Generous sprinklings of julliened ginger also helped everything to taste fresh and hot.  One of those meals where you eat far too much because it is all to good to leave.

The varied selection of indian erotica hung on the walls in the rear room was an interesting diversion too!

I shall be going again, and I would recommend it to anyone else who enjoys quality Indian food.  

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sushio Cologne

Sushiou has been one of my favourite eating planes in the last few months. It's a sushi bar with one of those conveyor belts that goes round and round (回転寿司 kaiten-sushi).

The fish is fresh and tasty and the sushi is prepared out in front of the customers.  If what you fancy is not on the belt, you just need ask for it. The range available is excellent, in my opinion.  There's also some sashimi options and a handful of non-sushi items such as miso soup (of course), seaweed salad, fried chicken and  fruit salad.

The nigiris are made with quite a small rice ball compared to some places, which, as far as I am concerned, just means you can eat more!  I confess I like nigiri and don't eat many maki, so I can't say much about those, except for the Ebi Tempura maki which is consistently delicious and one of my favourites.  Others at the top of my list are the Saba, Hamachi, Maguro, Toro and Unagi nigiris.

The owner and staff are not Japanese and the sushi is occassionally a bit experimental and not 100% traditional, but that isn't a bad thing. The current "special" is seared salmon with a sliver of avocado and a creamy, spicy sauce. Not for the purists I guess but very tasty!

Best of all they have an "all you can eat" option for about €25.  12 plates is about my limit, but since I generally go for the more expensive ones, I feel that I get very good value for money.  Someone with a bigger appetite could really go to town.

If you are in Cologne, check it out.  It is definitely worth it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pet Peeves (1)

On my computer desk I have a fair selection of different devices:- multiple computers, disk drives, router, USB hubs and so on. Far too many of these things have the power switch on the back.

This means whenever I have to switch anything on or off, I have to reach round there, where I can't see and where all the cables are (including the power cable from which I could theoretically get a nasty shock!) to find and use the switch. The switches are never the same type or in the same place, so I'm always fumbling away there, blindly poking around, until I find it.

Worst is the Mac Mini, with its tiny little invisible button, and the external hardrive which goes with it. The hardrive is designed to look the same as the Mini, and to sit under it, and its power button is also a tiny inisible button. But it's in the middle of the device, and so completely masked by the cables going above it into the Mini itself. I literally have to push a finger between the Mac Mini cables to find the power button for the hard drive.

So, hardware designers, please.... power switches on the front, where you can see them and use them safely!

[Cousin to this issue, is the device with a hard wired power lead and no power switch at all, which you can only turn off by unpluggin it at the mains! WTF?]

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I work for an agency, placed at another company as an IT consultant. The firm to which I am outsourced is reorganising the application development team, to split it into separate teams for support and development. We've been through this before about 5 or 6 years ago, and then they changed it all back again, and now we are having another go at it. These things go in cycles, everyone knows that.

In theory, the reasons for doing this are pretty clear. They think that the that the Production Support costs are way too high and they want to save money. They believe that a lot of not very well justified development work is being done using Production Support (PS) budget. In that regard, they are absolutely right in my experience. The idea of the change is that the PS people won't be able to touch any code at all, and the Development people won't be able to work on anything unless it is properly approved and budgeted. So PS costs will be contained and development project costs will be controlled.

All well and good, but, as someone said to me recently, the people who make these decisions often seem to have no real idea of how the work is actually done.

I can't help feeling that it will be the same as last time. Without being involved in the development the PS people won't really have a clear understanding of what they are supporting and, since they can't change any code, even when they do identify a problem, it will take ages to get it fixed. The Development people will be working under a very tight budget, so they'll have to cut out all the work they can, and the first to go will be things like proper peer review, testing, documentation and so on. Not out of sloppiness or a lack of professionalism, just by force of circumstance. They'll probably have to pass hastily completed, mostly-working, largely undocumented applications over the fence to the PS team and move on to something else (or, more likely, get released).
In defence of the decision-makers, this time there does seeem to have been more thought put into how the two teams will interact and work together . And I expect that most of the people at the coal-face, will do everything they can to make things work. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this looks like a recipe for disaster.

Personally, I'm still waiting to hear if I will be doing support or development in the future (the deadline for informing us is tomorrow). Almost all my work now is development, but I do it all on the PS budget. So who knows. A colleague, who is in a similar situation, was bitterly disappointed to find out he will have to carry on working for our current boss, doing only support. I have a feeling it's a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Doing only support and no development could be awful, but at least its a job. On the other hand, there may just not be any funding for development work. After all, this is more or less the cost saving they were aiming for in the first place. So the prized devevlopment job could just be a short-cut to unemployment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

La Montanara In

I have been eating mostly Japanese food recently, so its been a while since I visited many of the other haunts I used to go to regularly. I'm pleased to find that La Montanara In is just as good as ever. I had a late lunch /early dinner of linguine with clams and mussels. and it was excellent. (I had intended to have Pizza Palermo, with spicy sausage, spinach and parmesan, which is an old favourite, but I was unable to resist the linguine).

Everything was perfectly cooked with no shortage of fresh, tasty shellfish. The deliciously rich buttery sauce, made with fresh vegetables and herbs, was loaded with so much garlic that it was hot in the mouth. Luckily, I was not planning to have any intimate contact with anyone this weekend (as if that was ever going to happen).

The staff and owners at La Montanara In are all italian I think and the place, and the food, does seem very authentic. There is a certain haughtiness to the waiters, which reminds me of the typical Kölsch Kurbis, and which probably rubs some people the wrong way, but it doesn't affect the quality of service in my experience. Even the coffee is good and, for after dinner drinks, they have a good selection of interesting grappas.

It is almost always packed in the evening, especially at weekends, but I don't think I've ever been turned away (which is more than I can say for some other, completely empty, restaurants in Köln [cough]Bali[cough]).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, the longest day of summer, so naturally it is raining and overcast. Still trying to get the Overseas club site into some kind of order, but I think we are making progress.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Overseas Club Blog

Working on the Overseas club website.  This is a blog entry so that there is something to show on the page.