Take me back!
I found it extremely difficult to choose where to spend my precious free time while in London. How do you see the highlights of one incredible city between 6:30-10pm on weeknights and in just one single weekend? The obvious answer is that you can’t. I could have spent months in London and still not have even scratched the surface.
For me, though, there was one no-brainer. I did some of my own research in the few days before my trip and read about Borough Market, and then it was hammered home when pretty much everyone I met told me it was a must-see for anyone with the slightest interest in food. Safe to say, I have a SLIGHT interest in food. Lucky for me, it was right up the road from my flat in the London Bridge area, so I was up and at ‘em bright and early Saturday morning to beat the crowds.
Borough Market lived up to the hype, and then some. It was opened in 1851 (dates like this are pretty rare stateside!) and sits off of Borough High street just south of the river at London Bridge, twisting its way through multiple buildings and open areas. Vendors sell flowers, fresh produce, meats and poultry, fish and seafood, cheese, baked goods, more cheese, and then more baked goods amidst restaurants hawking their best of the best – chorizo burgers, fish and chips, English sausage rolls.
If I hadn’t done my research, I most likely would have been paralyzed by indecision on the food front and possibly have ended up in bed all day with a fish and chips induced stomach ache. And in all transparency, when I say “research,” I mean noticing this interesting little Google nugget when looking it up:
Grilled cheese, you say?
So THEN I did some research and found rave reviews by foodies all over the world, touting the toasted cheese at Borough Market “the world’s best grilled cheese.” I was armed with a plan, a latte from Monmouth Coffee Co., and prepared to wait in any length line.
I found my way to the Kappacasein stall after a few loops through the market both by the identifying the long line and the smell of cheese from about 50 feet away. I paid my 5 pounds, was handed a ticket, then spent about 5 minutes considered changing my order to the raclette, a melted cheese that they were burning and shaving off into big gooey piles of it onto roasted potatoes.
I managed to hold strong only after noticing the sign stating that they add grilled leeks and garlic to their grilled cheese, and then noticed the case of “raw” sandwiches, waiting to be grilled – shredded sharp white cheddar on sourdough with tiny hints of purple peeking out from the leeks.
Like the market, the grilled cheese met every single ounce of my expectations… buttery, crunchy, salty, gooey… and I’m pretty sure I’ll never again want a grilled cheese without the added punch of leeks and garlic. I will find SOME way in this lifetime to return to the Borough Market to experience this glory again.
I have no earthly idea where to start in describing the last 3 weeks of my life. I’ve never been away from home for that long and while I was definitely happy to see my own bed and pillow Monday night, my little 3-week adventure was one that I’ll never forget.
So instead of trying to write one big post for London and then one for San Francisco, I think I’ll just blog about some of the particularly memorable experiences – you know, like cheese. (See: Halloumi :))
We happened to be in SF/Napa for TWO Bears games and while JB was a trooper about missing the Monday night game with all of the Giants-going-to-the-World-Series madness, missing this past Sunday’s game was not optional. This meant spending an incredible Napa morning in a dark bar, so as a trade off, we headed out super early for a run through Yountville which culminated in a stop at Bouchon Bakery.
I had heard rave reviews of Thomas Keller’s Parisian bakery in NYC, so nothing could have made me happier than seeing that cute little yellow house off the side of the road, line out the door and great smells a half mile away. I did a bit of reading and Yountville was actually their first location, with locations in NYC, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills added later.
I quickly negated our three-mile run (and then some) with the coffee of my dreams and after agonizing for ten minutes over the pastry case, settled on two scones: chocolate cherry and bacon cheddar. They were perfection — buttery, crumbly, just sweet enough.
If you have the chance to go to a Bouchon bakery, please go! Run! Or walk, but go, and have a pastry for me.
It has become alarmingly apparent to me in my time in London that there are some things that just do not exist in the good ole’ U.S. of A. In particular:
- The question, “Large, or small?” when ordering a glass of wine
- Credit cards with a microchip
- Roast chicken and thyme flavored potato chips
And today, I discovered the most devastating non-American thing of all: halloumi. I was nosily listening to someone’s elevator conversation today and they mentioned that the café downstairs was serving a dish with halloumi. I made a note to Google that, whatever that was, then promptly forgot to Google it. Fate intervened and today while picking up some dinner at Marks and Spencer (oh yeah, add that to the list) it jumped out at me from the cheese section. I picked it up out of curiosity to snack on while making my dinner and the rest, my friends, is history.
I will not rest until I can find this at home. In a previous career, I worked in marketing at a well-known gourmet food store in Chicago so I have TRIED some cheese in my day, guys.
This was unlike anything I’ve ever tried – salty like feta but somehow mild like mozzarella, and squeaky like a Wisconsin cheese curd.
And do you know what most people do with it?
FRY IT. Or grill it, but either way, it’s this magical cheese that retains its shape when cooked at high temperatures, turns crispy and golden brown on the outside and melty and gooey inside. It’s like a self-contained grilled cheese.
Judging from the sad Yelp chains, no one has sourced it in Chicago yet, but if you can make that happen, I will give you my first born child, then the second one, and then make all of these drool-worthy dishes for you.
As expected, I am totally in love with this city. It’s absolutely stunning – soaring modern architecture against castles and huge expanses of parks. It doesn’t hurt that the weather has been insanely perfect the whole time I’ve been here. There have been a few showers but on the whole, it’s been crisp, sunny fall weather; the perfect backdrop for exploring!
A few things:
Dumb American in London moments:
Apologies for the short (and week late post!) but I’ve been trying to see and do as much as I can in the non-working hours and am therefore finding myself totally exhausted every night! In tonight’s case, I had a stressful (sarcasm) day of tapas, the Tower of London and cold curry… also, Downton Abbey’s on soon and that is serious business here. :)
Cheers from London!
I’ve been fighting with my wireless here but will be posting lots of pictures when I get home!
I’m totally going to go back and read the Secret again, because I’m pretty sure the laws of attraction kicked in and my recent fascination with London (evidenced here) led me straight to a very unexpected but very exciting two-week stint there for work.
I’m off on Monday and ridiculously excited, both for the work project and to spend the rest of my time exploring the city. There is SO much to see and I was starting to get anxious about how on earth I’d ever choose until I stumbled on to Kate Spade’s London City Guide. It’s helpful because it doesn’t include every single thing in London, but is a quick list of just a few cafes, parks, museums and markets so at least I have a small list to start with!
Have you been to London? What is the one thing I MUST do there? Do you think I can pick up an accent in 12 days? Fingers crossed!
The view from the back patio
This past weekend, we got our urban sherpa on. (This is Ali’s ingenious term for the plight of the automobile-free when attempting to leave the city or trek around the city without multiple trips home. Basically packing laptops, gym clothes, makeup, two changes of clothing, etc. in various bags: purses, totes and shopping bags and dragging said bags everywhere you go.) On Friday, we headed up to the burbs to celebrate our stepdad’s birthday. As always, it was a great time, but I think its safe to say the highlight of everyone’s weekend was the family canoeing trip.
Before we could get going, we had to make an emergency trip to DSW as our shoes were deemed “impractical.” We helpfully both brought home our respective pairs of leopard print shoes, so there was a family-assisted, fast and furious hunt for appropriate boating footwear. Mission accomplished in under 12 minutes; we are champs and the fam has great taste. And yes, we are aware that we are ridiculously lucky we are to have the kind of family that feeds us and houses us for the weekend and then buys us new shoes.
Chain O’Lakes State Park is about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago, and we really couldn’t have picked a better day for a drive. We admired our shoes and were there in no time flat. After a hike through the woods, some time acting like children on the swings, and a lunch of Ali’s amazing chicken salad and Asian apple pears, it was time to face the canoes.
Ali and I both love the water, but were less than thrilled at the perceived high probability of our canoe tipping and and flipping, fully clothed, into the muddy water. Luckily, my sister has an eagle eye and politely demanded a canoe roughly the width of a pontoon, so flipping turned out to be a non-issue.
She also turned out to be a pro navigator and the stronger paddler of the two of us, though I maintain my half-assed paddling was to take pictures. “ITS FOR THE BLOG!”
Our parents paddled along next to us and the four of us spent the next two hours canoeing up and down the banks of the river in total awe of how beautiful the scenery was, totally alone on the water with the exception of a crane and some elusive jumping fish. It was absolutely perfect in all respects: company, weather, and a new adventure, and a day I know I’ll always remember.
Ending the day with a dipped cone from Dairy Queen!
One week later, I’m finally ready to wear heels again, the extreme bloating from Cuban food/rose/halal cart/bagels/more rose/the BEST DINNER EVER at Bell Book & Candle/vodka sodas/late night pizza/mimosamimosamimosas has gone down, and I’m safely above water on the work front.
Totally. Worth. It.
I am so very sad it’s over.
I am finally posting my pictures from last weekend! Three things I’d like to call out:
1. I should have taken many, many more photos, and preferably with a real camera.
2. It was three thousand degrees and nine million percent humidity – so I have a whopping two pictures that I allowed myself in and only one with Shai, which is particularly sad.
3. If you’re looking for a real peak into NYFW, I’m going to point you over to DrunkOnShoes just as soooon as she gets her pictures up. She’ll do it much more justice. She really experienced NYFW as you’d imagine it – the shows, the celebs, etc.
So enjoy, in no particular order. Click to enlarge!
Please God, let me see women on boxes!
In a bizarre twist of fate, I am headed to Fashion Week in New York. Or the kick-off of it, anyway. Yes, me, the dubious writer of the (cleverly titled, if I do say so myself) WTFashion. I know, I totally don’t deserve this.
But, I’ll take it!
Its actually not THAT bizarre since one of my oldest and dearest friends, Shai, has a fabulous fashion blog called DrunkOnShoes and naturally, she is taking the blogosphere by storm. I had to say fabulous, forgive me - I’m in full on SATC mode right now. She’s invited to a bunch of awesome events and I’m SO happy to be along for the ride!
We’re headed out tonight and I have a two hour flight to master the DSLR so I can do her justice for her blog – totally doable, right?
I’m so excited I can’t sit still! Cocktails with an old friend, checking out the set up of NYFW, celeb stalking, visiting some NYC buddies, exploring and eating, of course, a lot.
Wish me luck!