Autumn Category

London Calling! Fond Farewell

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”
– Samuel Johnson

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I was all sniffles on the way to the airport, and it wasn’t from the wet chill outside, I’ll tell you that.

Yeah, I was grumpy all right. And I preferred indulging in my melancholia instead of reveling in all the wonders we experienced in just four days…

like this…

and this…

and oh my gosh, this…

And finally this!

See, why I’m so grumpy!?

Well, always the stalwart optimist, Jordan seemed to know exactly what would cheer me up.

And in his wisdom, he followed his appetite.

What better than a proper English breakfast to send us on our way?

Needless to say, this brought a very, very big smile to my face.

🙂

My tummy and heart salutes you, London!

Cheerio!

London Calling! – Pagan rituals, Pasties, and an Irishman?

Never imagined waking up to a cold, rainy, grey sky would be so exciting!

Today we were off to the countryside on a small group tour arranged by International Friends (hugely recommended) to Windsor Castle, the medieval town of Bath, and Stonehenge. I hope the Queen is not cross with me for waiting so long to visit!

Tony was our guide. He was bright, knowledgeable, and just a gregarious silly dude which we loved. Are all Irishmen this cool?

Here is just a tiny smattering of all the unbelievable sights, scenes, smells, scenery, and of course, tastes of the trip.

The druidic pagan spirits must have been with us today as we were blessed with a clear towering blue sky and bright reflective clouds. This isn’t supposed to happen in the middle of November!

Breakfast of champions at Avanti – a cute Italian cafe in Windsor that served authentic pastries, panini, and coffees

Meticulous gardens of Windsor Castle

The stones speak to me…Ooommmmm…

Welcome hot snacks – meat and potato stuffed pasties from Presto Pasty!

Savory pie filled with juicy tender meat and peppery soft onions

Flaky crust, potato, stuffed with soft onions and lots of black pepper

Ancient Roman Bath of which the city gets its name

Charming streets of Bath

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It was quiet on the van ride back to London, part from exhaustion and part from meditation on all the amazing experiences we had today.

Once we arrived back in London, though, everyone wanted something warm in their bellies. Tony again had a perfect recommendation – a placed called Belgo which was all about mussels by the bucket.

Oh my gosh, that sounded killer.

So a bunch of us from the tour decided why not dine together and keep the party going?

Belgo was several floors but crowded as could be – vibrant, full of energy, clearly a happenin’ place, especially for young people. Craft beers, buckets of mussels, and lively conversation at every communal wood table made for some great feasting with some new friends.

It was too dark for pics, but here are the mussels they offer. Hard to remember but we may have ordered one of each, or at least wanted to.

Mussel Pots
Fresh rope grown mussels delivered daily, kilo pot served with frites

Marinière – Steamed with cream, white wine, garlic, celery & onion
Green Thai – Steamed in coconut, green chilli, lemongrass, lime & coriander sauce
Provençale – Steamed with plum tomato sauce, basil, thyme & garlic
Traditionnelle – Steamed with white wine, celery, garlic & onion
Florentine – Creamed spinach sauce with smoked bacon grilled with gruyère cheese
Mediterranean – Topped with a tomato and basil sauce, grilled with cheddar & mozzarella
Portuguais – Mussels & roast chorizo in a tomato, garlic olive oil & paprika sauce with new potatoes & basil
Moules Blanches – Mussels cooked in Belgo Wit beer with shallots, smoked bacon & parsley, served with frites

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After our glorious day and lively night, Jordan and I slept quite soundly indeed.

Cheers.

London Calling!

November 5-9, 2010

“The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.”
– Oscar Wilde

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Only a month after we visited Italy, I had the opportunity to travel to London for business.

I pondered whether or not to make a 2nd vaca out of it for, oh I don’t know, a good two milliseconds or so.

Are you kidding? London?! Of course we were going!

Visions of medieval knights, architectural wonders built with bricks steeped in history, the Tube, and of course, British food (famous or infamous depending on who you talk to), filled my mind to bursting for weeks before our departure.

This girl was on a mission and wasn’t going to leave London hungry that’s for sure.

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For me, our weekend had to start with fish and chips. But where to go? There were literally hundreds of fish and chips places all over London.

After a little online elbow grease, we headed out to The Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden.

It’s a small joint with the fryers right where you walk in and a tiny basement sit-down with walls adorned with groovy aquatic art. Family-owned for 130 years. They fry up all manner of fish from cod to plaice (flounder) to prawns. Malt vinegar, curry sauce, onion gravy, mushy peas and pretty much the lot you’d expect at a proper fish and chips place also garnished the simple straightforward menu board.

Seriously, this was what you call damn good fish fry.

Haddock and Chips with Mushy Peas

Haddock with Curry Sauce

Classic Cod and Chips

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We emerged from Rock and Sole – our clothes smelling wonderfully fried – and took a brisk walk through hip youthful Covent Garden under a slight drizzle.

We pretty much just let our eyes and feet lead us where they wanted to.

And it seemed all roads led to Trafalgar Square!

Yinka Shonibare’s “Nelson’s ship in a bottle” art installment

General Sir Charles James Napier

Whitehall to Big Ben

Admiralty Arch

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Despite the grey skies and sheen of rain on my cheeks, I was giddy.

And also ravenous for more English grub!

So after a quick change and chat with the concierge at the Cavendish, we were off to Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill which was just a few doors down.

Now don’t let the name fool you. “Bar and Grill” may conjure up images of loaded potato skins and Miller Lite, but Bentley’s is a veritable institution.

Opened in 1916 in the same Victorian building it occupies today, Bentley’s gothic facade speaks of a London from the past. But upon entering, Bentley’s gorgeous interior feels contemporary and undeniably British at the same time.

And the food – classic, crafted, local, and infused with pride.

Oysters sourced off the coast of Scotland – delicately sweet then refreshing like a salty spray of sea against rock

Pot of Wild Cornish Mussels – white wine, parsley, garlic, butter

Sole a la Meuniere for Two – butter, lemon, capers, parsley. Incredible.

Steamed Cavolo Nero

Local Cheeses – sheep’s milk, cow’s milk, bleu, fresh figs, arugula

I can truthfully say that I sampled English food from casual to classical all day today, and the exquisite flavors of fresh fish and shellfish, sweet thick butter, good salt, and creamy tart cheese lingered on my tongue all the way home.

Brilliant.

Spring in NOLA: Crawfish Boil to John Besh’s August

Another glorious morning in what was becoming like a second home to us. We couldn’t believe our luck as temps ranged in the 80s yet again and it was sunny as sunny could be!

Today, we were off to explore NOLA’s Magazine Street – famous for its eclectic shops. Maybe we’d find some gifties for our friendsies.

But of course, like a moth to flame, we ended up eating big time yet again. I hadn’t even planned on this or even heard about it. Promise!

Big Fisherman Seafood called to us like mystical Sirens out in the fog of sea…calling to us…hypnotizing us…come eat…crabs…oysters…shrimp…crawfish…

How could I possibly turn away from a place that has this sign outside of it?!

And has this kind of heavenly spread inside?

I mean…c’mon!

We had naught to do but get a pound of freshly cajun boiled crawfish and 2 cajun corn on the cobs; nevermind that we had no where to sit down and eat our snack with all its messes.

But you’re never too far from laid back hospitality in New Orleans. A casual (and kind of trendy) alfresco eatery across the street was kind enough to let us chow down at one of their tables as long as we cleaned up after and ordered a couple cokes.

How cool is that?

So that’s just what we did! And it was soooo worth it.

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But seriously folks, that’s not all.

Tonight we would dine at the place that was on my short list for must-visit fine dining restaurants in the States.

And John Besh’s August did not disappoint.

Our meal was superb, expertly prepared, and yet comforting like a good Nawlin’s meal should be. To top it all off, Chef Besh was super friendly and as his periodic visits to various tables throughout the place showed, an amazing host as well. You could really feel how much he cared and was passionate about the experience. Makes all the difference in the world, I’ll tell ya.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the food?

Redfish “courtbouillon”
Persillade crust, jumbo shrimp, blue crab, and sauce bourride

Hand-made potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and winter truffle


Salad of heirloom beets, crab meat, cherry wood bacon, mizuna, and quail eggs with black-eyed pea croutons



P&J Oysters: crispy fried with Louisiana caviar “ranch dressing,” pepper seared with truffle spoon bread, horseradish crusted

“Breaded” speckled trout Louisiana crab, white shrimp, toasted almonds and sauce mousseline

Special: Goat three-ways

Napoleon of nougatine with Valrhona chocolate bavarois and salted toffee ice cream

Trio of gelee, chocolate, and pralines

The trip home in the dewy Spring night made for another amazing day in this magical place.