As you have been informed I have returned from the gracious company of our Chinese (do I say overlords yet? No) hosts, needless to say I shall be providing you with a chirpy travelogue shortly chock-a-block with trends, tastes and tipples. In the meantime I would like to draw your attention to a Spring/Summer collection from American Ivy League stalwarts Norman Hilton.
Under the mantra ''Doing one thing well'' Hilton specializes in producing soft, subtle, well-tailored Blazers for America's bright young things, and as you can see they deliver some fantastic wear for your consideration this year.
At around $650 they are certainly an investment piece for the younger reader, but the looks themselves (shot by Unabashedly Prep blogger F.E.Castlebury) displays some timeless Ivy ascetics (Madras, tie clips), indeed follow on to Castlebury's site for some real inspiration into the Ivy League dream and see how America manages to sell English often far better than we can.
Apologies to all for the brief hiatus in our usual broadcasting. Tea stocks at the Club house were running dangerously low so our editor-in-chief, brave man that he is, skipped off to China in search of new supplies. I am reliably informed he has just been seen putting back into port at Dover, laden with crates of Oriental provender and accompanied by enough pack-donkeys to cart it all back to Ataraxia HQ in time for elevenses.
We'd better get on with some work before he gets here.
Today I would like to show you an example of shoe design done right, courtesy of those gentleman cobblers over at Lodgers. 'The Hamilton Military' is an exquisite take on the classic Oxford which goes to prove that you can have colour in shoes without compromising one bit on their style or elegance. Couple with a well-tailored grey 3-piece suit for a razor-sharp image that may well result in immediate job offers from Whitehall. Also ideal paired with a complimentary lightweight tweed when around town. Onlookers will see the care and craft evident in every detail, from the hand-burnished toe to the wine-red sole.
Unfortunately, but inevitably, they are very, very expensive. My advice? Think hard about which of your organs you need the least and sell it to raise the necessary funds. If you're hesitant about sacrifing a kidney for a pair of shoes, it may help to know that bespoke wooden shoe trees, shoe bags and a storage box are all included in the price.
A word of thanks and credit where it's due. This commendable and covetable morsel first came to my attention via Justin FitzPatrick's excellent blog 'The Shoe Snob'.
As I currently struggle to plan the making of my own ham and chorizo I found much encouragement in the unending enthusiasm of Raymound Blanc who this week in his current 'Kitchen Secrets' series cover Charcuterie (cured meat). Last year I tasted myself some of the very best local french produce and the local smoked(donkey meat) cured sausages were among the highlights in terms of quality, texture and deep flavour, here Raymound lets you in on the simplicity of some of the most highly regarded dishes in the world.
Heads up, there's a new gentleman's monthly loose on the market. Titled 'Port' it aims to take on the monoliths of men's light reading Esquire and GQ. It certainly looks interesting (it should be at £6 an issue); contributions from Fergus Henderson (who possibly rivals Mark Hix in terms of foodie credentials)and Samantha Morton on film, with contributing editors for the first issue including Jon Snow and author Hanif Kureishi. As if they hadn't declared there seriousness enough they also stuck Mr''I don't like puppies or breasts'' Daniel Day-Lewis on the cover. At a first glance, the format doesn't differ wildly from Esquire's, with a clear focus on unaffordable high end style. However it's chief editor Dan Crowe's clear intention to pursue a return to the quality of the writing itself which may prove to be Port's trump card...
1.)Cook the peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Wilt and drain the spinach and add into a food processor with the mint and crème fraîche. Blend until smooth.
2.)In a large pan, heat the stock and bring to a gentle simmer.
3.)Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, until soft. Stir in the rice, pour in the wine and allow to bubble. Add a ladle of hot stock and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue to add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring, until the rice is creamy.
4,)Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Add the green purée to the rice and stir to combine. Season.
Particualy excellent is to serve the Risotto as shown with some roasted bird; chicken,turkey and particulaly pheasent work very well. Additionally it serves to turn this dish into a hearty main meal. Serve with leftovers, as an added treat pour the roasting juices over the risotto itself, exceptional.
We don't often find there is much to recommend on your visual-information boxes these days, but stalwart of excellence, childhood hero to all and always of interest and consideration David Attenborough produces and presents a surprisingly personal experience of the natural world. In 1960 he visited the island of Madagascar (Malagasy Republic to some of our readers) to film one of his first ever wildlife series, Zoo Quest. Whilst he was there, he acquired a giant egg. Being British by birth he took it home (as is his right). It was the egg of an extinct bird known as the 'elephant bird' - the largest bird that ever lived. It has been one of his most treasured possessions ever since. Fifty years older, he now returns to the island to find out more about this amazing creature and to see how the island has changed. Could the elephant bird's fate provide lessons that may help protect Madagascar's remaining wildlife?
Not ones to ever stray from classic dress sense it is with some trepidation that I suggest to the club some new garbs beyond mottled red cords and a threadbare tweed. However I putforth for your consideration Junya Wantabe's (who has fashioned Barbour coats in the past) ideas for next winter...
This week's tipple hails from that legendary venue of mixological prowess the Cafe Royal, which very sadly closed it doors on us tweeded ascetics in 2008 (after 143 years and a nefarious legal war with Oscar Wilde). Ever delusional of the present we the Ataraxians bring you a little something from the past. Possibly encouraged by our recent jaunt to the West country, and Old Tweedy's dangerous fascination for trying to incorporate cider into cocktails (in fact screw cocktails - gin and dry cider now corrodes his frontal cortex) we present..
Method: Shake well and serve into a chilled cocktail glass
Nearly affordable.. Montgomery art deco cocktail shaker (£130 Ralph Lauren)
This is perhaps not one to attempt at home,given the nature of the ingredients. However,find a well equipped bar and it should be worth the wait.The drink has a distinctive perfume with a haunting obituary. At it's climax the brandy and passion fruit juice jostle to find sure footing but no clear note is evident, the bourbon is almost totally hidden in the drink simply providing a soft sweet warmth.
This is works to form a rather ethereal character to the drink.
Such ghostly touches echo across your tongue leaving you faintly confused, amused and rather eager to have another.
This week the moustachioed Colonels, Brigadiers and other assorted Commissioned Officers of the Club have been boogying along to What You Know, an uplifting indie pop confection from preppy newcomers Two Door Cinema Club. Perhaps it's that catchy guitar riff that's got them hooked. Or perhaps the video, which features a bevy of brunette beauties dancing about in - as one distinguished Club member huskily puts it - "damned tight formation."
The old gents have been practising for the better part of a week, and can now reproduce the dancers' routine near-perfectly. It's quite a sight to behold. Unfortunately for copyright reasons I cannot post a film of their performance here, and must instead link you to the original video. You'll just have to make do with watching the girls. I'm so sorry.
While my brethren enjoyed the sweet succour of west country cider, I alas spent that time in the ultimately fruitless pursuit of screaming at the darkness, well a chap must have his hobbies. Now as you may or may not know, the humble correspondences of this Northern token are in fact prone to more than cookery though for the most part the rest are filtered due to their mind splitting rage. This piece however deserves a degree of rage.
Now chaps I know this is not a forum where one comes for comments on any matters beyond sartorial elegance, mixological prowess, greater artistic awareness and to at least my eternal shame some underwear models. But on following this link however I hope to raise in my fellow club members a deep, spluttering rage. There is something about it which raises my ire more than I can begin to explain. Not just because this is a sweet old God fearing woman being persecuted for defending her own children, nor that she has the bravery to stand alone before her opposition in a righteous cause. No what really gets to me is this:
“I feel a bit shy. But then again, it's the right thing to do,"
How often have you said that, even to yourself, even signing an online petition, no vocal component required. It is the right thing to do, it is a phrase that we barely even understand. The very simplicity of the phrase makes it the domain of action movies and that 'new' genre superhero movies. But the person who said these all important words was not a movie character she was a very real individual standing against something she thought was wrong.
Apologies for the long delay in our latest post, but the Ataraxian club was abroad this past week sampling the bittersweet ciders of West Somerset at the kind bequest and hospitality of Old Tweedy in his wonderfully ramshackle farmhouse.
So what did we drink? I hear you murmur from your armchair? Well through the haze of time and memory I shall endeavor to deliver a report on what was the highlight of the weekend, The Seymour Arms.
A public house as all other public houses should be. A disused train station converted into the ideal village local. Spartan it may appear ascetically with it's original wallpaper and p.e lesson benches it lacks no warmth in company. You could not be surrounded by a more welcoming regulars (e.g Homer, a near indecipherable cripple who complains of his bowel problems to anyone that will listen). Pass the billiards table the 'renovated' old ticket counter a sixty-something barmaid divides what must be to her blasphemous metric currencies into the separate draws of a battered Victorian cabinet. And change she will need at £1.60 for a pint of the house Cider (The 'medium-dry' being our choice of tipple- excellent clean taste) a price from a lost age forgotten by VAT.
In the center of the waiting room besides a roaring Edwardian fire, a table laden with local cheese brought to be shared amongst the locals, no catch, no promotion just an act of common courtesy towards fellow men. After Five pints (£8?!) it was with a heavy heart and a lack of general coordination that we stepped back over the threshold.
It almost seems a mistake to tell the wider world about it..
This light, piquant and flavorful rice dish is inspired by the results of a drunken fumble with a Waitrose recipe card one varsity eve. Here, a light fish stock takes the place of yogurt or coconut milk (both staples in South/ South -East Asian dishes), leaving you satisfied but not heavy after the meal. The list of Ingredients may seem long, but don't let that daunt you- you're most likely to have a number of these lurking in the back of your larder (behind the Woodcock and stuck to the Marmite).
Serve with a light and fresh Raita and an ice cold Hoegaarden.
Serves: 4-5 (keeps exceptionally well in the freezer)
For the Pilau
1 large onion, chopped 2 tbsp sunflower oil 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 tbsp Korma Curry Paste 250g basmati rice 500ml Fish Stock Grated zest and juice of 1 large lime 20g fresh coriander 200g Cooked, peeled prawns
For the Raita
½ Cucumber, peeled and diced ½ x 500g tub Natural Yogurt Chopped fresh mint (to taste) ½ tsp ground cumin A pinch of cayenne pepper
Gently fry the onion in the oil for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and curry paste. Stir for a further minute, then add the rice and mix well.
Pour in the stock, add the lime zest. Season, then cover the pan. Simmer gently until the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked to your preference (I favour mine with a little bite).
Roughly chop and stir in the coriander, add lime juice and prawns. Warm through and season.
To make the Raita, wrap the grated cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze out any excess water. Mix together all the Raita ingredients in a bowl. Serve a spoonful with a light squeeze of lime on top of your Pilau.
For those who dined in the nylon halls of The Ataraxian's at Latitude Festival 2010, you may be familiar with the produce of one Fat Cat Brewery, Norwich.It provided the warm, flavoursome beer which was much passed round among the young people by the dwindling fireside (turns out recycling bins only provide so much cardboard).
It is which such whimsical memories in mind that I heartily endorse the Fat Cat's Marmalade Cat ale as this weeks Tipple.
A classic mid-brown coloured strong bitter, with a markedly bitter finish from the generous use of Styrian hops. Flavoursome English pale malt adds balance and a smooth finish, which lasts and lasts. Full-bodied, yet with an ease of drinking which belies its strength.
For those of not in the vicinity of Norwhich Fat Cat beer is currently available by the Firkin (72 Pints) on the Fat Cat Website (Polypins are also available at at cheaper rate) This should at least keep you merry until next week's tipple.
In this rare clip from 1972, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl delivers a powerful message about the human search for meaning -- and the most important gift we can give others.
The fires of Scotland burn tonight in tribute to the bard of the Highlands, so prepare to get bare-breasted in old Highland manner! Toast to the defeat of the Long-shank with a solid Dalmore 12 year old. Sit back, cross your legs (you're wearing a kilt after all) and prepare your face with woad. We give you Brian Cox reading Tam-O 'Shanter.
Ever crusaders of paying less for something, The Ataraxians are at hand to provide the good-to-honest dapper chappie with a monthly guide to the best quality items currently available second hand (vintage, if you really must insist) on this hyper-mega-web-spider thing.
This month we highlight the honest shoe - oft overlooked and frequently awful. British men have access to the highest quality footwear anywhere in the world yet, as I gaze across the souless wasteland of the Tube I see square fronted, near-plastic insults to Empire adorn the feet of Britian's professional workforce.
I ask you how can a country escape national debt crisis if it can't even tie a decent pair of laces! It is interest of the nation's salvation that I have provided you with a few fruits of the worlds most respected shoemakers currently available for some very, very reasonable prices.
These days when we write, whether for work or pleasure, we instinctively head straight for the computer and type away. And why not? Typing is easy and fast, it offers the convenience of spell-checks and layout templates, and once we’re finished our work is effortlessly disseminated via printer, email and the Internet for all to see. This is all very well and good and thoroughly convenient and modern and practical and time-efficient and so on. But if your mind works like your dear correspondent Hemlock’s – and I pray for your sake that it does not – then you might reflect on us all, hunched over glowing screens, hammering away at plastic keyboards, marshalling unseen legions of silicon semiconductors to our will, and you might conclude that it all looked a bit dreary and industrial, a touch conformist and maybe, well, just a teeny tad totalitarian.
Meanwhile the process of writing, actual writing, that timeless union of the physical art of penmanship and the cerebral powers of language, has been cruelly relegated to the servile duties of an aide-memoire. With no laptop handy, we scribble onto sticky notes, scrawl shopping lists and doodle on the backs of envelopes with the aid of cheap, disposable and environmentally unfriendly ballpoints and glutinous gel pens. We neglect that special power of handwriting to produce something unique: an original composition, in an individual script.
Many of us here in the Ataraxian Club feel that this should not be. That’s why our members may often be found scribbling away right here in the Club’s drawing-room, still instinctively flinching at the memory of Teacher's cane each time they blot the page, continuing to make good use of that most illustrious and refined of writing instruments: the noble fountain pen.
Perhaps the last time you even saw a fountain pen was in your school days, when it was squashed into your games bag and subsequently ruined your rugby kit, prompting your father to strip to his jodhpurs in a fury and thrash you with a length of birch. Fear not, I can help. Of course not with your unresolved childhood trauma, don’t be silly. But if it’s a recommendation for a fountain pen you’re after, I would humbly suggest you strongly consider something from Pelikan’s Souverän range.
Widely regarded as some of the best writing instruments in the world, they’ve got the lot: a unique and time-served pressure-equalising differential piston system; massive ink reservoir; brass components; quintuple-lacquered resin barrel; and most important, iridium-tipped, diamond-ground, rhodium and gold plate nibs that are readily interchangeable and available in a range of sizes. They really are beautifully crafted things. Certainly there are other, pricier pens out there, adorned with swanky hand-cut engravings or incorporating more precious materials into their design. Observe, for instance, this overdesigned carbon fibre Italianate monstrosity (though perhaps not if you’ve just had a heavy lunch). It’s yours for a mere thirteen hundred and twenty quid with no change for a ciabatta. But few of these alternatives, if any, will match or surpass the writing characteristics of the Pelikan.
Best place to get one? You can pick up the mid-sized M600, your humble Hemlock’s preference, from Cult Pens for £135 in their winter sale. Considering the spotty adolescent manning the concession stand in your local John Lewis will charge north of £200 for the same pen, that is no bad deal; even other online retailers typically put them around the £180 mark. If your budget won’t stretch that far, the M200 uses all the same mechanisms as the pricier Souveräns but lays off on the expensive materials. It will also give you years of impeccable service. Yours for £45 from the same place.
While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two of Diamine ink. It’s excellent stuff, British made, and comes in a broad variety of colours to suit all tastes. Best to steer clear of permanent and registrar’s inks for now, since some are acidic or contain iron compounds and they can royally bugger your new pen if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“But Hemlock,” you may cry in indignation, “Why bother? Is it not just the worst sort of sentimentality and neo-Luddism to harken after hand-writing in the modern age? Don’t you even want an iPhone 4?” Of course, the great innovation of typesetting has given us everything from The Oxford English Dictionary to Penguin Books, from The Wall Street Journal to Heat magazine; and computers have spurred us on to create inestimable and ever-growing quantities of blogs, essays, articles, opinion-pieces, periodicals, polemics, and public notices of all descriptions. All of this does great service to society, with the obvious exception of Heat magazine. But in all these cases, technology is aiding the process of writing with the broader, impersonal public in mind.
What print and computers cannot do is to make your writing personal. As soon as the typesetter’s block or the digital interface is placed between the writer and the recipient, some element of the human connection diminishes: the letter, diary, poem, note, or whatever-it-is that we intended to write becomes that bit less personal, that bit more standardised, less unique, more mundane. If you are writing with someone in mind, whether it is a letter to a friend or to someone whose work you admire, or even for your own gratification in a diary or jotter, then you do yourself a great disservice if you do not write it by hand.
So it is that in my idyllic and unrealisable vision of a better, brighter, more human, more enlightened and altogether sexier world, we would all be enthusiastic amateur writers, eagerly sending and receiving great quantities of handwritten letters, furtively swapping diaries with loved ones and closest friends, fervently leaving a paper trail of our emotion and experience behind us as we live our lives. Yes, I did just say that handwriting makes the world a sexier place. Think about it. Sex can only connect you with the animal aspects of a person. Writing connects you with the human. That is a far more personal thing to share, far more intimate, and it possesses the power to move you so much more deeply, and to change your outlook on life forever.
Hopefully by now you have leapt from your seat in a passion, sworn against typing another word on a computer ever again, and swept the contents of your desk to the floor in the grandiose throes of your excitement. If so, relax. Sheepishly recover your computer from the floor and stick an Elastoplast over that conspicuous crack in the screen. You’re still going to need it. But don’t forget to treat yourself to a fountain pen, or if you already have one sitting unused on a shelf, take it down, dust it off, send away for a bottle of ink and promise yourself that the next time you go to write, you make sure to take it personally.
So there comes a point in a relationship where a chap wants to have a lass back to his flat/ pad/ ministry/ secret dungeon. He wants to wine her, he wants to woo her but most importantly he must dine her. Alas, the supermarket monolith has yet to match an input of flavour to even the crudest of in-house catering. With such considerations in mind I provide you with this incredibly simple and inexpensive recipe with which to declare your lustful machinations
The largest container of Chicken thighs available
1 large Garlic bulb
We are talking simple, when you prepare this a second time you will want to do it with crushed new potatoes, however taking one thing at a time, I suggest you go with boiled and buttered with a light salad (the XX chromosome loves greenery).
First step - buy chicken thighs (or butcher you’re own) you will want two each with the meal but get the biggest packet because they are just great cold with a hangover. Take your sharpest knife and cut into the chicken at 90 degrees to the bone and bone deep. If this feels good that's fine, you're just dealing with the decline of the BBC. If it fills your loins with joy, consult the nearest physician.
You want about three slashes in each thigh. In to which you want to stuff garlic, or to be more specific; take garlic top and tail numerous cloves, rip the skin off so it’s as pale as a newborn Scot.
Now slice the cloves into vaguely geometric segments (I recommend the Trapezium). Bung these segments in to the three slashes made.
OK, once that is done you're going to want to lightly zest the lemons all over the thighs in the Pyrex container, add the oil, the juice of the lemons, salt, pepper and oregano.
Cook for 25 minutes at 200 degrees (Gas Mark 6), and then flip the thighs. Cook for a further 25 minutes flipping once more. If you like crispy skins crank the heat up just before service.
If it is part of your plan to inebriate the female, any medium dry white wine should compliment the dish nicely. If such a suggestion flies in the face of everything you hold dear (you're far to much of a raging torrent of machismo for the wine!) then I can only advice St. Peter's Organic Ale, fresh and light without overruling the dish; splendid stuff.
In a world of amplified, instant half-truths the omnipotent focus of tragedy and failure continues to pervade. We ingest such misdirection each day we choose to interact with the wider world. Through the negation of empathy, we turn to blame, we refuse to forgive, to see the world from another's eyes.
On that note I leave you in the capable hands of Dr Carl Sagan and NASA.
This week's liquid courage comes courtesy of The Hawksmoor Restaurant, Seven Dials. Well known for serving the best Roast Dinner in London, it also serves a cracking cocktail. The 'Shaky Pete' is a rather masculine concoction of Gin,Ginger and Ale bringing together two of the great staples of British Alcoholism into one finely spiced drink.
Always eloquent, frequently arrogant and never ignorant, Christopher Hitchens deserves to be a national icon - drinker, smoker, womanizer; a source of great pride. His dignified, non hysterical approach to his oncoming fate only seals my admiration for this titan of British journalism. Although Hitchens would undoubtably disapprove of taking his comments out of context. I enclose the following 'best of' of Mr Hitchens stance on religion and his fantastic interview with Paxman (who is clearly in awe) filmed November last year.