Mixtape Monday, Vol 21

Claude VonStroke’s The Birdhouse 48 – Guest Mix J Phlip

Well, this is a day late (Techno Tuesday?), I was suffering the after effects of a thoroughly splendid Sunday wedding yesterday. But I want to share this mix with you lovely people, as I’ve been pretty obsessed with it since giving it a listen, going back to the brilliant J Phlip guest mix over and over again.

Anyway, this is the 2nd time I’ve posted a Birdhouse podcast, in truth I’ve held off posting others to avoid repetition, but this was just too good. The track that starts about half an hour (Shazam informs me it is Kenton Slash Demon – Singla) in has to be the best damn dance music track I’ve heard in years, absolutely addictive!

I’ve not really got a whole lot to add to the write up for this one, enjoy the bassy beaty goodness that is the Birdhouse!

Snack Attack, Vol 3

Pipers Crisp Co – Kirkby Malham Chorizo

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I clocked these in the cafeteria at the National Portrait Gallery on a day out with my mum, and had to sample them.

The crisps themselves are strangely scentless; even when I bury my nose into the packet, its only a very gentle whiff of a vaguely meat-esque flavouring. And at first bite, while delighted by the excellent crunch of the crisp (maybe these farmers do know what they are on about?), my initial thought is “this is just like a weak-sauce smoky bacon”.

However, a few seconds later a distinctively paprika flavour comes into play – only ever so gentle, these are certainly not in any meaningful way spicy to anyone used to hot sauces or curries, nor a particularly overpowering crisp, but there it is – a definite chorizo flavour. I’m not enough of an expert to say whether its Kirkby Malham chorizo. I mean, my surname is Kirby, which is quite a lot like Kirkby, and I’ve never heard of Kirkby Malham (unlike Kirkby-in-Ashfield, which I have heard of, one for the fact fans there). I had no idea they were renowned for their chorizo. I suspect that a lot of people in Kirkby Malham don’t know that they are renowned for their chorizo.

All in all, a very respectable crisp, if not one that lived up to the excitement generated by the very smart packet and very specific geographically-sourced flavour.


Snack Attack, Vol 2

Space Raiders – Spicy Flavour

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These are a UK classic. 20 pence worth of salty something or another. 20p! In truth I only recently sampled them for the first time. They are basically like a well-sanded Monster Munch. But 20p!

For the price they are, they are surprisingly good. I don’t know if I mentioned, but they are only 20p! “Spicy” is a generous description, but they taste pretty decent, and I imagine that a chilli or two was involved somewhere along the process of creating these strangely smooth objects, shaped like the classic alien face, even if the ingredients list doesn’t mention them directly.

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Biting into them they crunch in a very pleasing way, and for the price, which I should mention is only 20p (!!!), you get a perfectly reasonable portion per bag. The primary ingredient is maize aka corn, and the secondary ingredient is a whopping 22% sunflower oil, so these aren’t exactly a health food, but then how many apples can you buy for 20p?

Incredibly, I’d never even tried these until quite recently when I grabbed a bag for one of my occasional Sunday junk food binges as an afterthought, and while they are far from the Premier League of snacks, they certainly have a case for being the moneyball candidate, providing quite frankly stunning value for money, at 1p per gram of alien-based snack, the 20g bag clocking in at (you guessed it!) 20p!


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My New Favourite Pizza Place

It took me a while to go and try it, and there’s still a laundry list of pizza joints that I need to sample, but for now, I feel comfortable saying this.

To the best of my knowledge, Homeslice make the finest pizza in London.

Oh yes. That’s a big statement, and not one I make lightly. But I’ve now been there maybe half a dozen times and tried different pizzas every time, and never once been disappointed. The competition is intense – there’s really very little to pick between the top dogs of the London pizza scene. But Homeslice stands tall amongst this landscape as a consistently outstanding purveyor of the finest food a pizza addict could hope for.

Calabrian Peppers, Chervil & Lincolnshire Poacher cheese / Salami, Rocket & Parmesan

As you can see, they don’t mess about. You can buy their pizza by the slice if you are on the go, but the real joy to be had comes in the shape of this 20″ monster. It’s easily enough for two people with a normal appetite, and maybe 3 people who just need to fill a hole. You can have all one style, or split it half and half, which is what I’ve done every time I’ve been.


To give you an idea of some of the menu options available, here’s some of my favourites. Salami, rocket & parmesan (as pictured to the right above); Chorizo, corn, coriander (the corn in the form of a creamed corn sauce which replaces the traditional tomato sauce – the delicate flavours of that and the coriander perfectly offsetting the salty, slightly spicy chorizo); aubergine, cauliflower cheese sauce base and spinach with harissa (although the time we ordered it they forgot the harissa, it was still lovely – would very much like to sample the full deal though, I suspect that would take it towards the heavens), and Calabrian peppers, chervil & Lincolnshire poacher – the left half of the above pizza.

Aubergine, Cauliflower Cheese, Spinach & Harissa (Photo from here)

In the past I’ve been a relatively conservative pizza fan, often being a bit disappointed when I’ve ordered pizzas that came without the traditional tomato sauce, but the alternatives that I’ve sampled at Homeslice have been uniformly excellent. Occasionally it’s taken a slice or two to “acclimatise” to the difference from a regular pizza, but I’ve never left feeling disappointed. Even the one with sorrel cream (alongside Oxtail, watercress & radish) had me convinced by the end of my 2nd slice, a really unusual flavour but the combination of ingredients worked extremely well, and was unlike anything I’ve tried elsewhere.

Oxtail, Watercress, Radish & Sorrel Cream / Chorizo, Corn & Coriander

One of the key factors that I’ve come to judge a pizza on, and in truth its strange that I didn’t used to pay too much attention to this, is the dough base. Franco Manca‘s incredible sourdough crusts were a real game-changer for me in that regard, and while this pizza doesn’t quite match the Franco Manca bread for taste, it is still very tasty, but also tends to be that little extra bit crisper; enough that you can slice the pizza and pick them up New York slice style as opposed to being stuck with a knife and fork, as is often the way with Neapolitan style pizzas.


The pizza comes out on a wooden board, with a pizza slicer neatly tucked under for you to slice as you prefer (you can see it to the bottom left of the above pic) – I tend to go for 8 generous slices. One very neat trick they do which works very well is that they seem to sprinkle the wooden serving board with sea salt before laying the pizza down on there. These salt crystals then stick to the base, which really brings that savoury base to life on your tongue as you munch through each mouthful.

I’ve been to both the original Neal’s Yard venue, and the new joint on Old Street near Shoreditch Town Hall, and in both places the staff have been warm, welcoming and friendly. Drinks are at respectable prices by London standards  – a fiver for a pint of Camden Hells, with various craft beers by the bottle. The wine has always been decent to my unsophisticated palate, £14 for 500ml of red or white, or £18 for rosé. The open kitchens mean you can see them preparing the pizzas and blasting them in those fantastic pizza ovens (one day I will have a back garden with one of those in it!). I’ve not been during peak times (one of the aspects of being a DJ is you generally don’t get to eat out on Friday or Saturday nights with friends), so I can’t vouch for it being as good when its busier, but there’s no indication anywhere that I’ve seen to suggest that their standards drop at all.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot more for me to say. Pizza is great. This is great pizza. What’s not to love about that?



Mixtape Monday, Vol 20

Mix Master Mike – Rescue 916 & Neckthrust One

I’m old. At least I am in the context of clubbing and nightlife, but the fringe benefit of that is having had the fortune to live through the transition between the vinyl and cassette era and into the digital age. Record store culture back in the day was something that really helped shape me as a person and a DJ, and while I rarely buy vinyl these days, I do miss that little sense of community that happens when you keep seeing the same faces digging at record stores you frequent. And cassettes, ah cassettes… DJ mixes are still called mixtapes, and I had a few which I absolutely caned.


Two absolute faves are here for you to enjoy – Neckthrust One and Rescue 916, by the incredible Mixmaster Mike. I must have listened to these mixtapes hundreds of times, and spent countless hours trying to decipher how on earth to pull off these other-worldly scratches. I spent a fortune hunting down the records (this was long before Discogs existed!), the Al Tariq – Peace Akki track being possibly the most satisfying find of my digging career, as I had begun to think it was as mythical as unicorns before I stumbled across it in a 2nd hand shop.


Side B of Rescue 916 starts suitably with Jeru The Damaja‘s seminal One Day, a paean to the true spirit of hip hop holding out against the corrupting influence of bling and the Puff Daddy style of doing things. These mixes really are a great example of the art of DJing hip hop, with Mike scratching his way through boom-bap classics, electro gems, nuggets of pure funk and all manner of the sort of quirky samples that make him such a distinctive character in the music landscape. Him and Q-Bert absolutely revolutionised the scratch DJ scene with their utter dominance of the DMCs in the early 90s as the key members of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz – as a little bonus, here is one of my favourite ever DMC routines, followed by the mixes themselves. And trust me when I say that this battle routine is absolutely light years against the basic zugga zugga of their competitors, it’s like they’ve beamed in from outer space to show these mere humans how it’s done.

At the time that I was hammering these cassettes MMM was “just” one of the best DJs in the world, from the best scratch crew. He then went on to become the DJ for one of my favourite acts, The Beastie Boys (seeing them at Manchester Academy back around 95 was a real life highlight!) , and was the engine room at the heart of their seminal “Three MCs and One DJ” track. Enjoy hearing a true master at work!


Rescue 916

Neckthrust One