Saturday, February 4, 2012


Days 5-8

Then: 216 lbs (15 st 6 lbs)
Now: 214 lbs (15st 4 lbs)

This blog is temporarily suspended. Having had the disastrously delicious seafood linguine the other night (see the consequences this morning), I’ve just arrived at the Sharrow Bay Hotel in the Lake District for a gastronomic weekend. The restaurant here has had a Michelin star for the last 14 years and prides itself on its local fresh produce. Here’s a selection from tonight’s menu – all-inclusive:

Amuse-Bouche: pork and cheese terrine with chutney
Braised Pig’s Cheek, Sharrow Black pudding, Confit of the Belly and Apple Sauce
Breast of Quail, Truffle Fettuccini, crispy Pancetta and Wild Mushroom Sauce
Fried Calf's Liver on Pearl Barley with Wild Mushrooms and Madeira & Truffle Sauce
Mushroom Soup with white Truffle Oil
Fruit Sorbet
Roast Fillet of Angus Beef, Croquette of Oxtail, Shallot & Thyme Roesti, baby Vegetables, Pea Puree, and Red Wine Sauce
Best End of local Lamb, Herb Brioche Crust, Cauliflower Gratin and Tomato & Rosemary Sauce
Noisette of Venison with roast Butternut Squash puree, braised Red Cabbage, Apple & Raisin, Dauphinoise Potato and Brandy & Port Sauce
Fillet of Sea Bass with wild Mushroom Fricassee, Parsnip Puree and Scallop Veloute
Fillet of Cod with Shrimp Risotto, Seared Scallop and Noilly Prat & Lemon Sauce
Sticky Toffee Pudding served with Cream and Ice Cream
Stem Ginger Souffle with Honey Sauce
A Selection of 10 British Cheeses

That’s five courses (or, alternatively, a 10 course tasting menu), including the dish reputedly invented here in 1948: Sticky Toffee Pudding. No pill on earth is going to compete with this. I will pick up the pieces on Wednesday: please join me then. Sorry, Dr Steve, it’s nothing personal.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Well, It's My Birthday...

Day 4

Then: 216 lbs (15 st 6 lbs)
Now: 212 lbs (15 st 2 lbs)

4 pounds in 3 days. Impressive, eh?

For my birthday dinner, I decided not to order a starter. You see, at lunchtime we’d all gone out (the all being my little production team) to a great little Italian bar in Newcastle called CaffĂ© Vivo. I decided we’d just have starters and no mains. But, the menu was so tempting we ordered every one on the menu, and bowls of risotto, creamy polenta, meats and salads, baked parmesan custard with anchovy toast, black truffle Tagliatelle, and… well, it’s my birthday, I kept saying. How long can this excuse go on? Lunch lasted three hours.

It was only a few hours later that I went with the two Mrs Gutteridges in my life to another Italian favourite to have the main course. “No starter for me”, I said to everyone’s surprise. Mum’s jaw dropped in disappointment. “I had an Italian starter at lunchtime”, I said. Actually, I’d had ten.

The waiters liked that it was my birthday. So they unlocked the secret wine cupboard. It lies behind the bar, full of special off-menu vintages for special clients and special occasions. Well, it was my birthday, wasn’t it?

The 2005 Turriga is the most powerful, mellow Sardinian red. A giant gobletful sat in front of me with a steaming bowl of my favourite seafood linguine – my first real carbs for three days. The pasta was buttery and divine, the wine beyond description – it’s a great vintage. A perfect birthday meal.

The other great vintage in the room, Mum, who’s 91 later this month, comes from the school which teaches that no proper meal is complete without a good dessert. She absolutely insisted we had creamy passion fruit pavlova, and the restaurant, which claims that no meal is complete without a good tiramisu, brought me one of those as well with a lit sparkler and a group of waiters singing Happy Birthday. A glass of prosecco and another of limoncello and I was sitting happy as a Buddha – stomach restored to its pre-diet glory. And to cap it all, I completely forgot to take my capsule before the meal. I remembered at midnight as I stumbled into bed.

All my good work undone, tomorrow’s weigh-in is bound to be a disaster.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Apology, An Award, and An Analysis

Day 3

Then: 216lbs (15 st 6 lbs)
Now: 213lbs (15 st 3 lbs)

I owe the lovely people at Northern Stage an apology. Yesterday I said that their banquet fare was likely to be “wholesome and filling” – in other words, completely inappropriate for my diet. In fact, it was the opposite, and quite outstanding.

We had rare pigeon breast on a little watercress salad, followed by succulent cod and then a tiny little cube of chocolate cake. I avoided the roast potatoes.

Unfortunately what I didn’t avoid was the pile of wine bottles on the table. After two days of abstinence I attacked both red and white – it was almost my birthday, after all. Later, in a haze, I remember a lot of applause and the artistic director awarding me a medal for services to the theatre – it was made of chocolate. At midnight everyone around me sang Happy Birthday. Well, I think it was for me. What a great evening.

We are so lucky to have this great professional theatre company in our city. Jo and I were seated next to Samuel West who’s directing their new production of the geordie classic Close the Coalhouse Door. Sam is the son of our two national treasures Timothy West and Prunella Scales. I was pleased to see that he likes red wine almost as much as I do. We were probably calling everyone darling by the end of the night.  The entire region can't wait to see what he will do with our most loved local play.

I wonder if my jolly mood has been partly engendered by these diet capsules? They contain Siberian rhodiola rosea root extract, which, according to Dr Steve, was included to lift my mood, which in turn would reduce my food cravings. I’ve certainly been content with smaller portions (hence my avoidance of the potato bowl at the dinner, which is normally vulnerable to wholesale pillaging once I’ve started drinking red wine). Earlier on breakfast was just a small bowl of porridge, and lunch a dry salad with a single slice of ham. But despite this alarming reduction in my food intake, I’ve noticed an uncommon sense of calm since I started taking the pills. Even though I’ve just become 60 (for it is now Thursday), I still feel relaxed rather than depressed.

Indeed, if I begin to analyse my feelings I’d say I’m feeling distinctly mellow, even a bit spaced out. Jo says I’m hyper. Maybe I’m just hungover.

Only prolonged use will tell what effect, if any, these pills are having. Unlike the nightmare Dukan Diet, there are no bad consequences so far, except that I suspect the pills may be having a diuretic effect. I won’t elaborate, though this result may be due to two days of replacing wine with copious amounts of water. Who cares? I’m 3 pounds lighter after just a couple of days. Hurrah: so far so thinner.