If you skip over the fact that I made three trips in the past thirty days, and have two more coming up in the next two weeks, I don’t really travel all that much. (And it’s funny because some people like to try to point out inconsistencies about things I write about, which is amusing because I take even greater pains to point them out myself.) Before I moved to Europe, I was always quite surprised when I thought Europeans spent all their free time and weekends heading to other countries, visiting new cities, and immersing themselves in foreign cultures, when quite a few of them stay at home in lieu of hitting the road.
Results tagged London from David Lebovitz
I was a big fan of Ottolenghi even before I stepped into one of their restaurants. When I got a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, I was blown away by the photographs of gorgeous dishes, heaped with generous amounts of fresh chopped herbs, irregularly cut vegetables often seared and caramelized, and roasted, juicy meats accented with citrus or unexpected spices, usually with a Middle Eastern bent. The bold, big flavors came bounding through the pages and appealed to me as both a diner and a cook.
Although it seems like I travel a lot, I normally don’t—I swear. (Although I think my internal clock, which is going haywire, might disagree with that statement.) However I couldn’t resist coming to London to celebrate the release of Ready for Dessert in the UK, in addition to the UK-edition of The Perfect Scoop.
I’ll be making a quick jaunt to London this Tuesday, September 6th, at Divertimenti, doing a cooking demonstration and booksigning (Facebook RSVP page), as well as hosting a dinner at La Fromagerie on Wednesday evening.
I’ve had all three cookbooks from Moro in London stacked up in my apartment for about a year, and haven’t made anything from them. They’re very personal cookbooks, the recipes and photos invoking a time and place, with the food arcing between Moorish cooking and the foods of North Africa, along with the Middle East, nodding toward sustainability. I keep picking them up, leafing through them and looking at the lush, yet unfussy photos of food, but never tried any of the recipes.
Their most recent book, Moro East, was the result of their growing their own food in their “allotment”; a place on the outskirts of London where 81 people tended their own gardens and foraged for foods. The book begins with the sad warning that by the time readers pick up the book, the bulldozers will have plowed the century-old gardens under to make way for the upcoming Olympics, in order to create a pathway between two stadiums.
I don’t get it. Why are these called wine gums?
According to Wikipedia, it’s because the flavors are “similar to the experience of savoring a fine wine”.
You know, I like gummy candies. A lot. And I like wine too. But I see zero connection between the two. Zilch. I bought these a while back in London, intrigued by the little words on each one: port, claret, chablis, rioja, and gin…with apologies to my British friends, I don’t think qualifies as wine.
And what is ‘hook’?
So there I was, this afternoon, scavenging for something sweet and finally ripped open the bag. After picking through and tossing the black (licorice…ick!) and green ones (medicinal…ick!), I did a little searching and found they have quite a cult following. But to me, they don’t compare to the world’s great gummy candies—Chuckles, orange slices, Boston Fruit Slices—or my favorite filling-yankers; Jujubes.
(Ok, and can’t forget Dots, which I used to hold up in front of the screen at the movies before I ate it to make sure I didn’t eat a green one.)
Seriously, what is up with these little fellas?
With the Eurostar, London is just a 2 ½ hour train from the Paris gare du Nord. Why wouldn’t you go for a weekend? I guess I could think of a million reasons why I haven’t been to London but none are very compelling. When an email from some friends who live in Hawaii announced they were coming for the weekend (which involved several flight across multiple time zones), I couldn’t come up with an excuse not to go and meet them.
People (myself included) often wonder why Europeans don’t travel more outside of their country (in fact, just a slim minority of Americans have passports) when Italy, Spain, and London are just a hop, skip, and a jump across the frontière.
So I found myself speeding Chunnel-ward for the weekend. In winter, London is bone-chilling cold. Truly. I was surprised it was so much colder than Paris. An icy-blast of wind ripped through whatever layers of clothing I was bundled up in. Another surprise was the cost of most things. A trip on the Tube was a startling 3 pounds (about $5). And although England is a nation of beer drinkers, most pubs only had French or Belgian beers.
Except for one woman I had a tangle with at Monmouth Coffee (who shall remain faceless and nameless…although the nice woman there gave me my coffee for free because the other woman was so nasty), the Brits were chipper, friendly, and witty. At the astounding Borough Market, the cheery vendors braving the cold were happy to chat and offer tastes. I had a cream scone, stocked up on cheese (more in a future post), and my first gooey Treacle Tart from &Clark’s, Sally Clark’s bakery that was deliciously sweet. Of course, I loved it.
And my dinner at Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St. John was great fun, a wonderful place. Instead of heaping on the pretense like so many other well-known restaurants, the room is block-white with pegs on the wall, like meat hooks, for hanging your coat. They’re the sole decoration in the sparse room which I believe was formerly a butcher shop as well.
We started with a big platter of rock-hard bones brimming with warm marrow, accompanied by warm grilled sourdough bread, coarse grey salt, and a garlicky parsley salad. Another salad was Shaved, Dried Venison Liver with Radishes, Capers, Soft-Cooked Egg, sauced with a warm mustardy dressing and that was followed by my main course of roasted Pintade, Guinea Fowl, with Braised Cabbage and Salt-Roasted Potatoes. Dessert was a Warm Treacle Cake for 2 that was big enough for 8 and tasted like an upsidedown cake without the fruit. It was served with a large pitcher of warm creme anglaise. We also had a decent, but unexceptional Date Cake with Spiced Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. A scoop of just-churned Chocolate Ice Cream with an unusual red dessert wine (whose name escapes me) was a nice finish to the meal, and it was all quite lovely.
Here’s some of the other things I found to eat in London:
I didn’t know what this was since the box doesn’t have much information. When I asked, I was told, “It’s a big block of sugar, covered with chocolate.”
Sounds good to me! And indeed it was. In fact, it was so delicous, I bought a few more to take home. As you can see, it’s like a big peppermint pattie. I’m going to crumble one into my next batch of brownies, if there’s any left.
This is Luis, who spends all day at Borough market slicing ham as thin as possible. He offered me a taste of the two he was working on that day and if you’ve never had real Spanish ham, it’s really incredible and puts all other hams out of business. The best is made from pigs which feed on wild acorns so the ham takes on a deliciously nutty flavor because of that. Food blogger Joanne, who I met up with, along with Jeanne, bought several slices for her lucky dinner guests that evening.
I don’t know how they got the brownies to stack so tall, but they didn’t believe me when I requested the extra-large one, located near the bottom. My friend bought one, but neglected to share it with me so I’ll never know if they’re as good as the young bakers said they were. Still, that’s quite a tower.
Apparently a good plate of Fish and Chips is rarely found in London. You need to travel to the smaller villages, I’ve heard. However in London we got a list of a few good spots, including North Sea Fish Restaurant (7-8 Leigh Street). Our taxi driver knew the address well, so we assumed that was a good sign. And we were right. It was great. A huge piece of cod and fries, accompanied by malt vinegar and homemade tartar sauce, enlivened with horseradish and capers.
At the chic Harvey Nichol’s store near Hyde Park, I scanned the chocolate aisle looking for new taste treats. I passed on this one.