Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Lockdown Lunches #4: How to make a pasta bake

There's a strong chance that that today will turn out to be the first day with zero COVID-19 deaths in this country, even under the rather spurious criteria that counts anyone who dies of anything within 28 days of a positive test as a victim, even if they drop dead from a sudden heart attack or get crushed by a falling anvil.

A Pasta Bake, during Lockdown
The pubs are open - albeit outdoors - and from next Monday we'll even be able to get a pint inside as God intended. We might even start to get a decent choice of cask beer again, despite my ongoing concerns.

So, it looks like things might finally get back to something approaching normality. And not before time.

My 'Lockdown Lunches' series of recipes never really became a thing, mainly because I couldn't be bothered. But while we're still technically living under a Lockdown of sorts, I thought I'd add to the series.

It's only a little guide to pasta bakes. You quite possibly know how to do this already. But hey, you're getting a recipe out of me for the first time in months so be grateful for it! Or don't be. I don't fucking care. Tosser.

Monday, April 12, 2021

#CaskIsBack

Last night was, it's fair to say, a bit of a good 'un. 

Technically it was of course this morning. On the stroke of Midnight the latest lockdown came - sort of - to an end, and we were allowed to drink in a pub for the first time this year. Well, outside of a pub.

That's quite a lot of caveat, but it mattered not to the assembled drinkers and gathered press outside the Kentish Belle in the small hours of the morning. We were there for one thing. A taste of freedom. And beer.

For me it was mostly about getting pints of cask ale inside me. The first - Surrey XPA from the Dorking brewery - went down in one, and by 12:02 I was on my second pint (Crafty's Loxhill Biscuit) which didn't last much longer. It's April 12 and #CaskIsBack. Oh yes.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Back when Thornton's was actually 'essential'

Today I've been eating bits of a Thornton's Easter Egg, which made me ponder that one of the many victims of lockdown has been the company that made it. 

All 61 of their stores will not reopen once restrictions on 'non-essential' retail are lifted next week, bringing an end to what became a fairly ubiquitous presence on the high street. And I don't really care.

In all honesty, I thought there would've been more shops than that - every high street in every town has a Thornton's shop, right? - but apparently they've been reducing the number for years from a peak of over 350 in whatever year my brain is obviously stuck in. Probably a year far longer ago than I think it is.

The brand, now owned by Ferrero, will carry on in some form, and I have to say I probably won't miss their stores. I can't remember the last time I went in one but it was at least 15 years ago and that was just for an ice cream on a hot day.

But I haven't always been indifferent about them.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Will it be COVID that finally kills off cask beer?

With Christmas done and dusted, probably with Arsenic, we're rapidly approaching the death throes of 2020 and at this time of the year, I would usually be thinking 'Golden Pints' and telling you all about my favourite beers.

This time around I shan't bother because I've drunk so little beer this year, what with the pubs having been closed for so much of it and my strong preference being for drinking beer on cask while sitting comfortably in a pub.

But this year, visits to the pub have been - shock, horror! - somewhat thin on the ground (and beer festivals absolutely nonexistent). For what little its worth, my favourite cask pints of the year were Arbor's You may say I'm a dreamer and Mallinson's Shift, but there wasn't a whole lot of competition as there wasn't a whole lot of drinking going on.

I know it's not the same for everyone. I know plenty of people are happy enough drinking cans and bottles at home and given the opportunity to spend more time there, might have actually drunk more than in a typical year.

But that's not me.

And so, I come to the question that's been bothering me for a while now: Is this the end, more or less, of cask beer?!?

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Deacon Centre

OK, so this is, if you like, the BV 2020 Christmas Charity Appeal.

I want you to donate to The Deacon Centre. And if you can't do that, please Like, Follow, Share, Forward and all of that other stuff. LocalGiving for donations. Our Facebook page for general support and sharing.

The Deacon Centre, Caterham
Believe. Achieve.
This has been a shit year, right? Very little socialising, very little eating out, hardly any going to the pub and beer festivals have been non-existent. We've all had a terrible time.

One of the few positive things that actually happened this year is that a new charity, The Deacon Centre has been established, and things have worked out in such a way that I find myself Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Named after Joey Deacon, we'll be running creative spaces for Service Users with Physical, Learning and Communication disabilities and those who support them. Creative writing. Music. Art and Crafts. Drama. Giving people opportunities to express themselves creatively; a chance to really 'live' rather than to merely 'exist'. (We might even offer some food-related sessions at some point!)

We have some great ideas and big plans for when the pandemic is finished, and a determination to make a difference. It's very early days so we need all the support we can get.

So, if you do one thing this Christmas, do it for Joey.

Thanks.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Where is the substance?

On Friday I went to the pub - for the first time since Lockdown II 'ended' - for a few pints and, of course, a substantial meal as is now required by law.

These are profitable times for Britain's Scotch Egg industry. Pasty bakers too, I shouldn't wonder. But possibly not such great days for our wet-led pubs and their customers who have suffered more than most from the fucklery that is COVID-management legislation.

The industry is doing its utmost to cope with a frankly ridiculous situation - we've seen ultra-basic pasta-based meals sold for just 1p with no obligation to consume it. 'Meal replacement' protein drinks on sale, and of course, several seasonal ales named 'substantial meal'. Then there is the ingenious trick of telling everyone when they arrive that 'unfortunately the kitchen is very slow today and it might be a long time before your food arrives.' What a wheeze...

Friday, September 25, 2020

10,000 pints later

On New Years Day 1996, I sat in the William Morris pub in Merton Abbey Mills, drinking a pint of Draught Bass

A callow youth with a few months of teenagehood still remaining on the clock, I had no idea that this was the start of something that would stay with me for the next two and a half decades.

It wasn't - don't be disappointed now, internet - a lifelong love of Bass. But it has been a journey through a further 9999 different beers.

The Bass was quickly followed by Gale's Christmas Ale, back when Gale's was actually a brewery in Hampshire, and the following day I enjoyed a Burtonwood James Forshaw, and a Hopback Summer Lightning

So...