Home / Essays / 2015 / November

Eating London, baby!

Whenever I travel, I am on an eating mission! Sometimes I amaze myself with the ability to focus solely on the food I will be eating and forget anything else. Vorfreude definitely applies here. (Vorfreude = the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures) Excuse me if I sounded snobbish, totally accidental.

First stop: Maverick, near London Victoria station. It's a lovely little place, fuss-free atmosphere, intimate and friendly in a cool, minimalist way. Loved the music! The waitress was nice enough to show me what playlist they had on, because I got stuck on a song I loved but couldn't identify (Shazam failed me). The song, just in case you are consumed by curiosity, was Down in Mexico by The Coasters. Soul in my ears, pizza and wine in my mouth, friend I haven't seen in forever across the table. Life was sweet that day.

Now let's talk pizza. There were three of us so I got to taste more than one pizza. Yay! I'll start talking about the dough, because a pizza's magic starts with the dough. It was Italian honesty on a plate. Crusty, thin, not oily. A delight in its simplicity. I had the Genovese. Classic gal (pesto, cherry tomatoes, rocket) with the twist of smoked mozzarella. I've always loved smoked cheese, but rarely had it on pizza successfully because it tends to overpower all the other flavours. Here it added another layer for my taste buds to explore. Add this to the amazing pesto, that is surely made by the hands of a wonderful human being, and you are in a world of intense, soulful flavours. The cherry tomatoes complement this perfectly, they bring that freshness and sweetness we all crave in our pizzas - and in our personal lives. Rocket and Parmesan on top, and that's it. Beautiful.

Second pizza choice at the table was Capra. Goat cheese, red onion, pomegranate drizzle. A good combo, if you're looking for something less traditional. And again, these people know their cheese! Not too much, so it doesn't steal the show. Balance, my friend. The last I tried of the three was the “Bianca”. Marinated aubergine, smoked mozzarella, rocket, basil, Parmesan shavings. This one I found to be a bit dry for my taste, the aubergine needed more seasoning, and overall it felt like it lacked flavor. I like my pizza on the juicy side, so maybe that is just my opinion. Or maybe not. Keep you guessing.

There was this one place that slightly changed my life. We looked for it like one looks for Neverland, we waited for it as one awaits that letter from Hogwarts that's lost in the mail, and we walked like Frodo walked to throw that damn ring in Sauron's bitch ass face! We skipped lunch in order to get to that damn bridge, missed afternoon tea, clearly my judgement was clotted. Uh, I mean clouded, damn scone craving keeps following me around! By the time we were eager to sit down and have an amazing meal, we were long hungry and tired. Every place we liked was full, while every ugly-ass “ we have a buffalo head in the window”- place was of course empty. One moment I'm saying we have to keep looking, not settle, we waited so far, we have to find a good place with awesome food, otherwise all the sacrifice was for nothing! (Dramatic, I know. It's how I roll.) The next moment I'm willing to eat soup in a plastic cup in a sad looking place, that's gonna close in like 10 min. “Fuck it, I just want hot something in my mouth and a place TO SIIIIIT!” I miss seating! Remember seating?! And being warm?! I get awfully cranky and desperate when not fed. My friend, who knows me, knew I would soon regret giving up, so she pulled me out of it and we kept looking for that place, that magical damn place that would put delicious stuff in our mouths, dim lighting on our faces and good music in our freaking ears!

After realizing we're in the wrong part of London, we took a bus, we saw a place and immediately got off there. If you know what I mean. French, dim, jazz, baguette at the door, oh my! Purrfection! Je vous presente Cafe Rouge, mes amis! We had the Lobster bisque, the Plateau a partager ( board of charcuterie, olives, pâté, soft goats' cheese, rocket and a selection of bread with d'Isigny butter) and the holy trinity dessert. Washed down, of course, with wine. Because of all the reasons. The lobster bisque was so dreamy. Like Colin Firth in The Bridget Jones diaries. Sweet, steamy, intense, rich, creamy as fuck, respectful and loves you for who you really are! Also, the puddle of melted butter in the middle was “make you weak in the knees-decadent”. Wink wink, baby! I didn't think anything could top this, until I had a lusty love affair with the pate. I've never known pate like this, I was living in the dark 'till it came along and showed me what true pate tastes like. It had such complex, complete flavours, 5 dimensions all in one bite! His heart, core, grounded, meaty flavour, the base that then sustains the sweetness, and then the lightness, and then the perfume! Oh, the perfume! And the texture! It was like cutting into cheesecake, creamy, airy, layered! Imagine this: a slice of baguette- crusty outside, soft inside, cut in a big, inviting chunk, drizzle that with melted butter with garlic and herbs, then top with the pate. I got dizzy at one point. Orgasmic. I swear! I have dreams about that pate. Pate has become my life's new goal. Obsessive? You bet! That's what great food does.

That platter was amazing. The goat cheese was just as it should be, and the meat was chewy and salty and sweet! In perfect harmony with everything there!

For the dessert we had miniature tarte tatin, tarte au citron and fondant aux chocolats. Even though I wasn't blown away by this (not sure I even had the capacity at this point) it was all good. It was the perfect ending to a decadent meal. I don't have a picture for this one, because we rushed everything into our mouths. Like animals. Graceful, slightly boozed up animals. 

When I planned the whole London fast get away, the only thing I did was ask someone who is as passionate about good food as I am, where must I eat? One of the places on her list was The Breakfast Club. We were pretty far away from city center, so by the time we got there is was lunch, and it was full and we were far too hungry for a 30 min wait. We vowed to return the second day, and headed to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries to stuff our faces with something downright dirty. It did not disappoint. That was the dirtiest breakfast I've ever had. I mean if you're looking to eat good bad stuff, this is the place to go. It's greasy, it's saucy, the potatoes are real, "you bite the fry, the fry bites back!" and the burgers are made of fat dreams. Unfortunately for me, my stomach prefers the French decadence over the American splurge. By the end of that meal I just felt like I've been stuffed like a turkey and then punched in the stomach. Don't worry, an entire day of walking took care of that. 

As promised, the next day we went back to the Breakfast club. At around 3 a clock. No, we are not morning people. Their shit is clearly the good kind, because the place is packed! You either get there early enough to say "Top o' the mornin' to ya' laddies!" or late late lunch, when people with jobs and such are not having lunch. The place is like a beehive, buzzing with loud talk, fast food, good music, and generally a very hungry energy. The lucky thing was that we already had breakfast so we were not hungry, we went there to stuff our faces with pancakes. And everybody knows you don't need to be hungry to eat pancakes. When I saw their menu I suddenly got a Sophie's choice kinda feeling. I looked around and everybody had delicious looking stuff on their plate! Huevos rancheros, Pulled pork sandwich served with fries, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and oh Lord, The Pancakes! I mean The All American just brings one to tears: pancakes, eggs, sausage, homestyle fried potatoes, streaky bacon and maple syrup! Pancakes and fries on the same plate?! Clearly the work of the devil! Because we weren't hungry, we decided to meet in the middle. So we got the Eggs Benedict and The Pancakes & berries. My boyfriend had the coffee and I had The Slow Boy juice (Apple, Carrot, Orange, Ginger). And boy, was it slow! They kinda forgot about us for a while, it was clearly a mistake that doesn't happen very often and they handled it perfectly. They took responsibility for the mistake, apologized, served us promptly and said that the bill is on them, because we had to wait for so long. 10/10! I will probably repeat myself on this subject! A lot! The food was amazing! The eggs were just how The God of Eggs intended! Poached to perfection, placed on a toasted English muffin dressed in ham clothes, topped with creamy hollandaise sauce and sent off into the world! 

Perfect and untouched. Just like a freshly snowed road. And then, you gotta walk all over that! Poke it, and surely yellow goodness will overflow! 

And right when I'm about to say that there just is no better way to a breakfast-loving-heart, the pancakes and berries appear like a gift sent from heaven! 'Cause why else I am hearing angels sing?! Those pancakes are the thought that keeps me balanced in times of madness! There are animals being hunted by stupid assholes, people being murdered by insane assholes, injustice, poverty, fear and more assholerry! A cruel world. Yes, but also a world with amazing pancakes. That you share with friends. Or that you eat alone, to fill the friends-shaped-hole in your heart. With pancakes. All I'm saying is as long as there are pancakes like these, there is hope. As fluffy as a bear cub's bottom, as chewy as Chewbacca and as sweet as a squirrel in the snow (a bunny would have been too sweet, a squirrel is perfect), these pancakes are the past, the present and the future! And if that wasn't enough sitting on top of this glorious stack of happiness, is a luscious vanilla cream that sits there like lipstick on a pretty girl's lips. Effortlessly. Like it belongs. Like it's been there since the beginning of time. You think I'm done? I am not done. On and around this mountain of joy, topped with a fat cloud of fat, berries of all kinds are sprinkled around. Like precious beads of freshness that bring out the very best in you. All of this sitting in a puddle of maple syrup, also known as the Elixir of life and love and all that is good in the world. So next time, I'm in London, you know it's gonna be pancake time! Oh, Lordy, Lordy! It turns out I do wanna roam again!

 Also, I love Borough Market. I wanna live there. I'll be a market child, wild and free. 

 Ladies and gentlemen, this was FoodTalk. Come again.

S01E11 The one with the biscotti cookies

Introduciiiiiing tooday's reeeeciiipeeeee! From “The one with two parts”, in the left corner we have Mad About You's Jamie and Fran, in the riiiight corner Pheobe Buffay! And in the middle “ 2 lattes and some biscotti cookies”. Now fight in the name of Italian goodies! If you are confused, go and watch the thing! What are you still doing here? If you know what I'm talking about, you're gonna wanna watch it again, because that's just the kind of person you are.

A lot of things happened in the world since the last post. Adele performed “Hello” on TV for the first time, Caitlin Jenner “finally” got her driver's license gender changed, teenage girl punched 87-year-old woman in face on bus in Britain, las empleadas domésticas en la Ciudad de México luchan por un trato digno, and I am on a low carb diet. You be the judge and establish which of these shocked you to your very core. I am not one to have dreams of skinnyness (yes, I did just make that up), I'm actually quite fond of my Nigella Lawson style curves . I just wanna transform the jelly parts of me into..well...not so jelly parts of me. You know, from soft cheese to a cheese that can hold its form. And the headline would read: The magical journey from mozzarella to Gruyere! [insert music notes] Reeead all about iiiit, reeeead aaaall aaabouuut iiit! However, I would like to do this while at the same time being true to my carb-loving self. I feel like my identity is being stolen from me! Yes, carbs are a part of my identity!I know there are brothers and sisters out there who fully understand me. I also know, some of you are calling bullshit on this. Papa Bear, honey, sugar snap, if you haven't had carbs taken away from you, you don't get a say on this one! You can't understand how it feels to suddenly rely on meat and eggs to fill you up. And no, the eggs cannot come in the form of a deliciously yellow batter that you can make into cupcakes, pancakes and/or generally slather your jelly-like body with. No! Even the stuff that autumnal baking dreams are made of are off limits. No more apple pies, pear and frangipane strudel, pumpkin spice flavoured everything, rice pudding with home made sour cherry jam, mashed potatoes with mascarpone instead of butter! Goodbye butter biscuits! Goodbye biscuits for that matter! A world without carbs is a world I don't wanna live in. It's a sad, bitter, black and white world, and bitch, I need colour! Foreeeeeveeer fat, I'm gonna beee foreeeveeer faaat! Do you really wanna eat forever? Foooreveeer caaarbs!

That being said, I decided to try my best but not deny myself what I consider basic needs. Because if baking bread (wholemeal even) at 11 a clock at night is wrong, I don't wanna be right. Eating 5 slices of it with butter and gruyere cheese, is definitely wrong. They might as well put it on the label :“Eating Gruyere doesn't make you Gruyere”. So much for that whole “You are what you eat” thang. It's important to know the difference between right and wrong so that there is no confusion in your mind when you're being a bad, naughty, downright dirty girl.

Tune in, and witness how I fail at life but win at food! Every week, I will have a “Naughty list” to share with the world (as graphically as possible). You know, cause I need to keep count. And what better way to do it then publicly? Declaring it, like you would in a great arena of shame. Glorious!

Now, let's focus on the recipe. "Cantucci" as they are called in their homeland, are biscotti that were born in the region of Toscany, the place where dreams are made of food. Traditionally they are made with almonds and almonds only. But we are a creative people and thus man has made many different combos. I will be making both the original one and a Christmasy one with pistachios, white chocolate, cranberries and orange zest. What makes them different from other types of biscuits is the fact that they are double baked for that extra crunchy, perfect-to-dunk -in-wine texture. Oh, did I not mention? Yeah, italians dunk them in Vin Santo toscano and gracefully stuff their faces with it! In our episode, they accompany lattes because they're in a coffee shop in NY and because God doesn't like it when I drink my wine with biscuits. He's such a purist. Even more so than the Italians.

Things and stuff:

  • bowls
  • mixer/old fashioned whisk
  • oven tray
  • parchment paper
  • brush/your fingers

It was this big:

  • aprox. 25 biscotti

It took this long:

  • 25 min. to make, 35 to bake! I made the rhyme, you do the math. It's only fair.

Ingredients and quantities:

The Process:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/ gas mark 5/ moderately hot.

Step 2: Take your nuts of choice and lay them in a tray, as you would a lover in bed.

Step 3: Toast them for 3-4 min.

Step 4: Crack 2 of the 3 eggs in a bowl, add the sugar and salt.

Step 5: Wisk, beat, do whatever you have to do to get the mixture foamy and pale.

Step 6: Add the butter. Melted and cooled down.Mix.

Step 7: Start slowly adding the flour. One tablespoon at a time. This is how it looked after half of the flor was incorporated:

Step 8: Add the rest and you will get a very soft dough, like this:

Step 9: This is where I realized that I forgot to add the baking soda (when adding the flour). First I panicked. Then I added it anyway, stirred the shit out of it, and voila! Like it never happened.

This is a picture to help you understand the magic of Irish weather and thus how lighting is an adventurous game I play every time I take these pictures. That cloud moved within seconds! That's how fast the sky changes its profile picture around here.

Step 10: I divided the dough in two almost equal for the two different biscotti. Now add your cool(ed) nuts,choc&cranberries. Drop that stuff from a height, because it makes you feel badass.

Step 11: Lightly flour a surface. Place dough.

Step 12: Play with that dough. Like playdough! Omg, I just got that! Shape it into a log. That is easier than you may think it is. This has got to be the most cooperant, gentle, docile, well behaved, polite dough ever! Just...really the nicest dough!

Step 13: Remember that third egg? Crack it, gently whisk it, brush them logs with it.

Step 14: Get those babies in the oven for 20 min at 190 degrees and just stalk them until they're nice and tanned.

Step 15: Get them outta there, let them cool for 5-10 min. Cut them diagonally. Try not to eat them. I ate some just like that, because IJBDBCHVC. Like I need a reason?!

Step 16: Tuck them in close together, like a big tray filled with babies. Now forget about my foolish baby comparison and get them back in the oven for 10-15 min at 170 degrees.

That is all! Fatto! Finito! Tutto aposto!

Now make yourself a latte, sprinke some crazy cinnamon on it and go to town. Methaporically. Don't really go into town, you just made biscotti!

Jump, Bis Scotty! Go on, take that bubble bath, you'll feel so much better.

A mountain is a mountain. When it's a biscuit one, it's just much easier to climb

I dunked a biscotti and I likeeed it.

Come on close, young dunked Cantucci!

Il Cantuccio nostagico.

In my corner. Where pretty things happen. Especially when you bake them.

Feedback: I'm just gonna say this: easy and delicios. Next time, I'm drowning them in wine! Because getting drunk on food is awesome!

Yours truly, forever a bit fat, Gogo Cherie!

Until the next one, happy eating!