July 20th, 2010



Location: 152-154 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, in London. Moderate walk from Old Street or Liverpool St. Stations.

In a spacious chic-industrial space full of light, Saf's bar serves up some impressive and innovative cocktails. I drink a praise to England's Rhubarb Triangle, while C. is on the tarragon & tonic, and doctorvirago tries out the "Pick of the Garden Martini". A radish lounges on a floating leaf in her drink. Each cocktail is vividly complex, but with each element still distinct. This is superb teamwork on the part of the ingredients and the artfully performative bartender.

Dinner is thought-provoking, but we're not blown away the way we were with drinks. We have all three courses, starting with a vibrant sea vegetable salad, or a inadequately-varied set of tacos whose meat-replacement filling wasn't nearly as interesting as the sauces it came with. The salsify fettucine was visually lovely, but the comparison with fettucine was a distraction, with its flavor being less robust, more delicate than its namesake. Baked tofu really needed its dash of red pepper sauce to enliven it. The desserts were fine, but none of them were memorable for more than presentation.

Vegan fine-dining is a laudable accomplishment, but frequently, the dishes were, for all their visual elegance, not internally varied enough. We should have gone for more, smaller plates, perhaps a selection of appetizers. We also felt distracted by the names, with vegan dishes labeled as derivative of meat-laden versions we already knew. We wished we weren't burdened by those comparisons.

So: a pleasant meal, outside in the intimate little courtyard with twining pepper plants, fresh air and hard seats; friendly-but-uncertain service from a new waitperson; but the biggest active lure for a return trip is the cocktails. They really are awfully good.

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CFP: Technology in Medieval Literature

International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 12-15, 2011
International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK, July 11-14, 2011.

These two AVISTA-sponsored sessions, one each at the Medieval Congresses at Kalamazoo and at Leeds in 2010, offer a venue for literary scholars to contemplate where and how technology appears in medieval romances, sagas, fabulae, and other forms, as well as technology’s meanings, importance, and change over time. Recent work on early modern technology and literature (e.g. Cohen’s Shakespeare and Technology (Palgrave 2006)) has shown both the value of this approach, but also highlighted its difficulties and pitfalls, an additional element we hope to bring out in this session.

The Association Villard de Honnecourt for Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art (AVISTA) is a scholarly organization dedicated to any and all medieval topics which relate to the practical sciences or technologies. For more information on it, see its website: http://orgs.uww.edu/avista/

Abstracts and cover pages are due to Shana Worthen (sworthen@owlfish.com) no later than September 15, 2010 for either session. (Cover pages for submissions for papers at Kalamazoo are available here: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html#PIF. For Leeds, only contact details will be needed in addition to your abstract.)