Archive | August, 2011

Lunch at Harrods

30 Aug

In the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the elegantly dressed Audrey Hepburn steps out of a cab, coffee and pastry in hand, and stares longingly into the Tiffany’s window.

Hepburn’s character later goes on to describe that this is her way of killing “the mean reds,” a feeling even worse than the blues because you’re not sure of what is bothering you.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Paul Varjak: Sure.

Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

While I definitely don’t have any emotional qualms at the moment, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that opening scene as I approached Harrods with my friends Dominik and Susan. Whether you have “the means reds” or not, it’s a beautiful escape just like Holly’s beloved Tiffany & Co.

Last time I was in London I didn’t have the opportunity to explore this Mecca of fine things, so it was definitely at the top of my list for this visit. We entered the grandiose building only to find ourselves surrounded by 100’s of stunning, and very pricey handbags and then wandered through until we found the “food-court” because like me, my friends always make a b-line straight towards anything consumable. To call it a “food-court” is really blasphemy. It’s more so a series of rooms all containing the most beautiful and thoughtfully placed edible goods one could imagine.

At Harrods you have your choice of fresh fruits and vegetables, Dim Sum or any other delectable delights. They even have an entire room devoted to sweets and teas.

The three of us bought our goodies and decided to dine at the nearby Hyde Park. The reason for this is that unlike eating breakfast at Tiffany’s, lunch at Harrods is somewhat chaotic and nothing like the “quietness” Hepburn describes in the above quote.

Surrounded by the serenity of the park we enjoyed a roast beef and sauerkraut sandwich…

…and a seafood potato tart containing smoked salmon, jumbo land crab, crème fraiche, caviar, pea shoots, and chives, flavored with sherry vinaigrette and lemon.

To accompany this, we chose a crayfish and mango salad with string beans, avocado and red onion.

Although our lunch was cut short by a typically torrential and expectedly unexpected London rainstorm, all-in-all this was a wonderful afternoon treat to share with two of my good friends from high school. This may have even been my “real life place” that feels like Holly’s description of peering into the windows at Tiffany’s.

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Eating Our Way Through Borough Market

28 Aug

It’s hard to believe that I was in London a full 3 days before making it to a market. I love markets. The sounds, smells, colours, variety – a feast for the stomach as well as the eyes.  London’s Borough Market, located near the south side of the London Bridge, embodies all of these things with a host of locally made treats, and a kaleidoscopic array of fresh fruits & vegetables. More so than some of the other London markets like Portobello Road or Camden Market, the main focus of Borough Market is food. Delicious, wonderful food.

These scrumptious goodies are perfectly situated within the charming steel frame of the overhead railroad and nostalgic brick walls.

 Almost frozen from excitement upon entering, Susan and I were overwhelmed by all the mouthwatering options like freshly made fudge…

…and potted baked goods.

After doing a couple laps, our appetites growing ever larger, we settled on a food stand offering savory boar sausages served on a fresh Kaiser bun topped with sautéed onions, horse radish, mustard and spring greens, accompanied by a side of sliced deli pickles.

For dessert, we opted for Turkish delight (truly the best I’ve ever had)…

….and some hot mulled cider.

We picked up a couple pies and some fresh vegetables for dinner.

Heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumber, and golden beets added some excitement to our salad.

 

Pie #1 was a lamb pie with free range British lamb, carrot, and “swede” (aka rutabaga), flavored with mint and rose wine.

Pie #2 was the Heidi pie, stuffed full with goat cheese, sweet potato, spinach and roasted garlic.

Market-going may be a clichéd white-person indulgence, as my friend Susan pointed out (Stuff White People Like: #5 Farmer’s Markets), but if I could buy food from a stand and fresh groceries for dinner every day from a bustling market, then I’d be one very happy girl.

Tasty Thali, Yummy Yogurt

26 Aug

One dining destination that came highly recommended to me for my time in London was Masala Zone. (http://www.masalazone.com/index.php).

This popular chain originated in London’s trendy Soho district in 2001. Since then, it has burst all over England becoming one of the most popular Indian restaurants in the UK. The reason for its success? Probably the fact that they have craftily combined healthy balanced food with exciting and unique Indian flavors.

One of the items that they’re known for is their thali.  Served on a stainless steel platter with small bowls called “katoris,” the thali consists of a wide variety of dishes, each offering something different and delicious. With this traditional way of eating Indian cuisine, you are given the choice of various vegetarian or meat curries to be the feature dish of the platter.

Susan and I opted for the vegetarian Thali and chose a flavorful curry dish containing purple yams, eggplant and cooked banana.

We also ordered an enticing korma chicken, delicately seasoned with saffron.

While there are numerous Masala Zone locations to choose from, we went to one in Islington, and to our delight stumbled across the wonderful little neighborhood of Angel. After walking around its bustling streets for a while, we found ourselves at a frozen yogurt place called Samba Swirl (http://www.sambaswirl.co.uk/).  Much like Qoola (http://www.qoola.com/) back home, the concept is that you choose your frozen yogurt flavor (or flavors), add any topping you like (of which there are many), and then your cup is weighed for pricing.

One might say we went a little overboard, while others might agree that there is just too much goodness to choose from and sometimes being able to have a taste of everything is half the fun of going to a place like this.

Although I’m pretty sure having red velvet, cheesecake, lemon, coconut AND chocolate frozen yogurt all in one cup is a tad excessive.

Tea for Two

25 Aug

To me there is nothing more delightfully British than afternoon tea, and I was determined not to leave London without having a proper experience. If you look at various “Top Ten Tea” lists of the city you’ll be met with some of the most opulent and beautiful photos and descriptions of afternoon tea at elite hotels and restaurants. But Susan and I just don’t have 50 pounds to spare for some Earl Grey and a cucumber sandwich. After quite a bit of research we stumbled across one option that seemed perfect at 15 pounds a person…

Afternoon Tea at the Crusty Pipe

The Crusty Pipe (http://www.crustingpipe.co.uk/) is a lovely little wine bar located in Covent Gardens (http://www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/), an exciting area slightly northeast of Piccadilly Circus containing a host of shops, restaurants and bars. One of the main attractions is the market, which is home to The Crusty Pipe. One of the reasons we chose this place was the promise of a courtyard table and we were not left disappointed – the setting was absolute perfection!

Not only were our surroundings ideal, the food was also delicious and surprisingly very filling. The tray was stacked with an assortment of sandwiches and desserts and we were serenaded by a string quartet as well as an opera singer as we munched and sipped or afternoon away.

On the Menu

 To Drink:

 An assortment of Fairtrade and organic Clipper Teas

 To Eat:

A selection of freshly cut finger sandwiches

  • Eggs salad sandwich with pistachio, asparagus and mild curry spices. Served on whole wheat bread, crust cut-off
  • Smoke salmon sandwich with fresh dill and cream cheese. Served on white bread, crust cut-off
  • Sweet and spicy chopped beet wrap
  • Humus and vegetable wrap

Homemade classic and fruit scones with Cornish clotted cream and jam

A selection of Petit Fours and Homemade Desserts 

  • Lemon custard with fresh mango slices
  • Moist walnut brownies
  • Teeny-tiny tiramisu
  • Petite tarte aux abricots
  • Rich chocolate cake with crispy hazelnut crust
  • Lemon and raspberry custard cake

Ready to Eat in London

24 Aug

The last time I was in London was over 4 years ago. It was at the end of a long backpacking trip and by the time my traveling partner and I arrived in this wonderful city we had almost completely exhausted our funds and decided to spend our remaining budget on West End musicals over restaurant meals. Luckily for us, London offers a glorious food chain called Pret a Manger (http://www.pret.com/) which features relatively inexpensive and deliciously creative sandwiches, soups, and other lunchtime goodies. Even luckier is that there is basically a “Pret” on every street corner.  Since that trip, every time someone even alludes to London, I burst out in an almost a frantic manor “PRET A MANGER!!”as if my life depends on them knowing of its existence. Therefore, it was only natural that my first culinary stop in this city was at my beloved Pret.

 

With almost too many options to choose from I could have spent the afternoon in Pret alone taking mind photos of all the mouth-watering concoctions. In fact, they’re very good about listing their ingredients so that if you wanted, I’m sure you could make a pretty good replica at home.

 

My friend Susan, (she’s from Victoria and will be beginning her masters at the London School of Economics in the fall), had the one shown above, describing it as “Thanksgiving in a sandwich.”

I opted for a sandwich filled with chicken, avocado, whole leaf basil, yogurt mayo dressing and lettuce.

I also grabbed a “Vitamin Volcano” smoothie for an extra little nutrient boost to aid my jet-lagged exhaustion and phobia of getting sick in big dirty cities.

Lunchtime conversation consisted of Susan and I “mmm-ing” and “oo-ing” over our scrumptious little sandwiches and remarking how the wonderful thing about Pret is that you can be in a major hurry and have a delicious, well-balanced meal and not have to resort to street-meat or Subway. But then again as you already know, I’ve always preferred making my own lunches. So perhaps next time I’m making a sammy, I’ll throw in some yogurt mayo dressing or fruit chutney and bring Pret a Manger to me.

En Route – Not so Plain Plane Food

23 Aug

When you think of plane food your first instinct is probably to get out your Ziploc bags and pack a nasty smelling tuna sandwich, because we’d rather torment the rest of the cabin with putrid tuna-infused recirculated air than stomach the over-cooked under-flavoured tinfoil-wrapped mess that they throw on our seat trays. However, this journey I was actually more excited about the food than the multitude of movies and TV shows I had to choose from. Well, to be honest with you the thing I was most eagerly anticipating were those awesome pods that allow you to have a horizontal rest in a quiet and isolated environment, but this is a blog about food, not spaceship-like airplane innovations.

The first culinary experience of my journey was actually in an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. I had a 5 hour layover and decided to pass the time by taking full advantage of their drink and snack bar. 1 Caesar, 2 glasses of red wine, 1 latte, a plate of veggies and dip, chickpea salad, a bowl of cream of broccoli soup, 3 different types of cookies and I was good to go for my flight.

Upon arriving to my seat I was greeted by a lovely little menu describing some of my in-flight dining options.

I began my feast with a glass of cabernet sauvignon, a selection of cheeses and breads, mixed greens and the salmon appetizer.

For my main course I chose the tenderloin.

For dessert I decided to have a couple tablets of melatonin instead of the selection of fruits or the pecan tart. This naturally occurring sleep aid knocked me right out and once I finished watching “The Fighter” it was off to dreamland…lying horizontally in my pod of course.

I awoke to a delicious omelette, fresh fruit and some green tea which I quickly devoured before we touched down in London.

All in all I’d say I was quite impressed. I mean, if you can get me to wake up an hour earlier than I need to because I’m terrified of missing the breakfast, then I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

Food and Me

15 Aug

Eating and Sleeping; My two favorite things:

On a rainy Sunday afternoon January 1987, little Elisheva Shortt (yes that is my real name) was born at a healthy 7Ibs 6oz. From what I’m told, that really is when my glorious relationship with food began. According to my mother I was an easy baby, spending the majority of my time eating and sleeping. Not much has changed.

Love yourself, love food:

Yes, I was definitely a well-fed child. Just look at the picture below! THAT is a girl who values the cake over any other birthday perk. Some of my fondest childhood memories include stuffing my face with goodies, like when my dad would make us pancakes for dinner as a treat or when my mom had to drag me around while running errands and she’d pacify me with a big fresh bear-claw from my favorite bakery. I was definitely not deprived, and although my childhood chubbiness did cause me some grief from time to time (especially being a ballet dancer), my parents always taught me to love myself and love food. Eventually I learned they were right when I hit puberty, dropped all the baby weight, and kept eating like there was no tomorrow.

A Family of Foodies:

Both my parents, in fact everyone in my family, are fantastic cooks! My surgeon father treats it like a science with his “Cooks Illustrated” subscriptions and fine finesse for detail. My mom puts more love into her cooking than anyone I know – and you can definitely taste it! Even my brothers have great skills in the kitchen. One has worked in numerous restaurants as a chef, including an extremely popular and trendy New York deli. Now he’s at school to become a naturopathic doctor. The other, who’s in psychology, makes a show-stopping Pad-Thai. The reason I tell you this is to highlight that no matter what we choose as a career or life path, there is always room for food and culinary growth. Hence the reason why I’m heading off to Paris to attend cooking school. I don’t necessarily want to be a professional chef (although that would be pretty amazing), I just feel that if you love eating as much as I do, it’s probably a good idea to be really good at preparing the food that you want to shove in your mouth.

Making School Lunch and Other Fine Skills:

I first realized my culinary calling around grade two when I decided that I would make all my own school lunches. Shortly following this it became somewhat of a trend for me to offer multi-coursed “gourmet” dinners for my family  – printed menus included, naturally. I didn’t really find my true kitchen-legs until I moved away from home to attend university and was forced to cook all my own meals on a very tight budget. Creativity is key in these situations and very quickly you learn that sometimes the weirdest combinations turn out the best – you just have to be willing to push your palate.

But creativity isn’t enough, and sometimes we all need some good hard skills and techniques to really move forward and grow. Through this experience I’m hoping to further develop my love affair with food and gain some important knowledge in the culinary arts. And what better way to do all that then in la belle Paris, one of the true culinary capitals of the world where I’ll surrounded by overflowing cultural richness.

Thank you for coming along with me on my journey and I hope you learn something in this process as well!