22 June 2008

A report on the 22 June 2008 Oxboink was posted to the newsgroup by Stephanie and is reproduced here:

This past Sunday eight representatives of the east bank branch of AUE met in Summertown, Oxford. This is, unfortunately, not a very good set of notes due to your humble author having been sat at one end of a rather long table and therefore undoubtedly having missed many fascinating topics bandied about or even discussed seriously at the other end of same. This is also due to my not having followed Laura's excellent example (one seen on television and given every encouragement, I must admit) of having a notebook always close at hand. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Attending were Laura, Paul, Mike P and spouses, Katy, and myself. We met at Portabello (yes, the mipspelling was discussed) Restaurant on what turned out to be a bright warm sunny day while much of the rest of the country suffered gale force winds. It was doubtless due to the season that Celtic brooches were not in evidence. The restaurant is located on a street interestingly named (but not discussed) 'South Parade', which is (regular readers will have guessed) located to the *north* of North Parade. (Wikipedia will explain it all should you be interested, I certainly was.)

Having apologised and introduced at some length, I can report that the following topics were discussed at the end of the table where I was and whilst I was there (I had a train to catch that didn't leave nearly enough time for talking):

--the myriad wonderful things about the best place to holiday in Switzerland, which explained why Laura's been away from the group for a couple of weeks; said wonderful things included fabulous food and blissful lake views and did we mention the choice of fabulous food (daily specials, healthy living, and -- something else, I knew that lack of a notebook was going to be fatal!);

--the phenomenon of being convinced you know what someone will look like when you've only ever talked with them by telephone and then being exceedingly flustered when you meet them and they look nothing like the person who exists only in your mind's eye; examples adduced included one member of this group, an expected short ginger-haired German speaker who turned out to be a tall dark Italian type, and the purchaser of Laura's son's flat (who promptly appeared at the restaurant, thereby causing some immediate flusterment), as well as svelte northern Moira ;

--being acquired by a cat and how to deal with it (some discussion of salmon);

--different kinds of mint (spear-, pepper-, other) and whether any of us could tell them apart;

--the latest trends in artisanal chocolate.

This last portion admittedly took a good deal of attention, including as it did the reading of interestingly translated packaging, the discovery that when said packaging had been removed there was no way to identify the various chocolate bars other than to keep eating them, and -- well, eating. A portion of this research effort included 99% (Laura, was it 99? My scribbled notes in the not-big-enough notebook which was used too late and not well enough are so tiny that I can't tell whether it was 98 or 99) cocoa chocolate, its instructions for tasting (yes, you need to be carefully taught), and a mysterious graph explaining same. No European funds other than our own were used in the conducting of this research.

Flavours included 'macadamia of Carpentaria' (in honour of Antipodean absent members), 'lavender of high Provence', 'peppermint (see above) of Mekong' and 'star anise of Sichuan'. I think they did, the evidence is now long gone. We worked hard at our research, you understand. Whilst there is definitely a trend for using stronger spices and peppery flavours with/in/against the chocolate, most members of the panel found most of the chocs still rather delicately flavoured; some expressed a desire for chunkier more definite textures with, for example, the macadamia variety. Oddly for AUE, the repeated use of 'of' instead of apostrophes didn't attract any attention.

My notes expire here and so do I, temporarily, being off on a short holiday myself on Friday. I do have some pics, though, and would be happy to forward them to anyone who could post them -- advice or a destination e-mail to send them to, please?

I do apologise for the inadequate nature of this report and thank everyone for coming. It was lovely to put faces to names, the food and drink were great, and a good time was had, I hope, by all.

Click here to see the posting and the rest of the thread in the Google archives.

Stephanie having afternoon tea at Blenheim (not a boink but discussed boinkily)
Photo of Stephanie having afternoon tea at Blenheim (not a boink but discussed boinkily)