London

St._Pancras_station_in_London

St. Pancras station in London – in my head it’s “pancreas”

I’m going to squish this all in one post because we squished this all in one weekend!

I fell in LOVE with London. Maybe it was the sunshine that weekend, or the fact that I was with my best friend, or the fact that it’s been on my travel wish list for so long, but I was instantly smitten! Everywhere we went was charming, different, and interesting. The buses were crazy! The people were so nice! There was good coffee with or without ice cubes everywhere! Clotted cream in the train station! The SHOPPING!

Westminster_Abbey?

Tried to capture what I think is Westminster Abbey in the background?

OMG I just can’t even handle it. Paris has so many amazing things, but none of the above. And I don’t realize until I get out how much it sucks sometimes. 😉 I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Paris after three years here. The housing situation, things being randomly closed, shitty weather…I will now mention some things I love about Paris to make myself feel better, since I won’t be going back to California until Christmas. The fig tart I had recently…champagne for the smallest of occasions…tiny windy streets…my friends…French, the language…cigarette smoke…duck…the buildings…the museums I love…dogs…ok I feel better now.

Back to London!

Here are some of our discoveries:

Indian_Vegetarian_Buffet

GAH!

Diwana | Not only is every cuisine represented in London, but odd sub-categories like Indian Vegetarian buffet exist in the restaurant scene. YES. I didn’t love every dish but it being a buffet who cares. Plus it was only £6.95! It was packed with businesspeople on their lunch break – always a good sign.

Diwana Restaurant – 121 Drummond Street / London NW1 2HL / Euston

Pizza_Pilgrims

Yes.

Pizza Pilgrims | This would go number 4 on my list of best pizzas (1. Una Pizza Napolitana in SF 2. any homemade pizza 3. Zachary’s in Oakland) – it was just a solid, wood-fired oven pizza with great sauce and cheese. Mmm I’m drooling just remembering and I think it’s been almost two months. Long wait, but they’ll serve you cocktails while you wait outside – brilliant! We went to the Soho location but there is another one in Carnaby.

Pizza Pilgrims – 11 Dean Street / Soho W1D 3RP

Drink_Shop_&_Do-London

cake_at_Drink-Shop-&-Do

Drink Shop & Do | I love doing ridiculous things like going somewhere for cake and coffee for breakfast and then going somewhere for tea after. Ottilia does too. This is why we are friends. This was yet another amazing little treasure that Ot spotted from the bus – not only do they serve brunch and lunch and good coffee, they have a whole counter full of homemade, beautiful cakes (frosting is considered optional in Paris – not cool), all the furniture and decorations are vintage and for sale, and they have art classes. When we were there, a bride and her bridesmaids were having tea and making crafts. !!!

Drink Shop & Do – 9 Caledonian Road / King’s Cross, London / N1 9DX
020 7278 4335

Tea-time

Tea Rooms | I was obsessed with having a true English-style tea and though Ottilia’s mom is from London so she grew up having tea all the time she was down. We found this place online and it was lovely. We were served copious amounts of little sandwiches, scones, and cakes, and we got TWO full pots of tea! And I learned the hard way that a thin layer of clotted cream is best. (And my friend Amelia has since told me that she puts the jam on first, then puts the cream and lets it sort of melt down, which sounds amazing.) This neighborhood was also full of lovely stores full of high-quality things I didn’t even know I wanted, like really nice gold scissors, and cute cheeky greeting cards.

Tea Rooms – 155 Stoke Newington Church St / London N16 0UH

Cocktails-in-a-can _M&S

Marks & Spencer | We do have this in Paris, but they don't carry everything that they do in the London ones. We discovered CANNED VODKA AND GIN AND TONICS. Genius, practical, and delicious.

The Tate Modern | I only had time for one museum, but I quite enjoyed this one. I was interested in the paying exhibit but decided to spend my leftover pounds on a Topshop dress instead – priorities. 🙂 The free parts were great! I happened upon a photography series in California and I recognized a photo of an AC Transit bus. Funny to stumble across that in London. I also loved this sculpture – not just because of the glitter and bright color (but mostly). I especially like it because the glitter is composed of crystals that formed naturally from an application of copper sulfate powder. As the description reads, the artist “uses chemical or mineral processes to explore ideas of growth and change and the tensions between the industrial and the organic.” While I sometimes don’t appreciate when you need an explanation to understand art, this time it helped me understand the piece and enjoy it more!

Sculpture-by-Roger-Hiorns-at-Tate-Modern

by Roger Hiorns

General awesome-ness and happiness | Ok so I might have unrealistic tourist take on London, but there was so much cool stuff everywhere! Like Paris (and of course many other cities) there are beautiful parks integrated into the city that we kept stumbling upon. The flowers and plants were just as stunning as in the Jardin de Luxembourg or Versailles. There was free tight-rope walking in a grassy area with a very nice guy offering to help you mount and dismount. We also enjoyed Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a way to walk off the Indian food on our first day. Walking through Soho, we happened upon a Birchbox event – I paid £3 for several samples and discovered a new favorite lip balm, and the money went to charity. All of the people we encountered were so nice, apologizing if we had to wait at restaurants. I just LOVED it and I’m so so so stoked to go back!

A bientôt

A bientôt

Barcelona / The dog is hot

Ottilia found this place online while searching for vegetarian places to eat. It was a great find!

menu_thedogishot

The menu – I got Piñadog

They offer several hot dog topping combinations, as well as either a vegetarian or a meat dog. I think there were gluten-free buns as well. I loved the topping choices – they were really crazy and delicious flavor combinations – but the best part was the ten or so bottles of sauce on the counter so you could add even more elements to create a flavor explosion! ☺

hot-dog-thedogishot

Yup, those are fried potatoes

After I finished mine, I really, really wanted another, but somehow managed to resist. This was a good choice, since a few minutes later my stomach registered what I’d eaten and was definitely full.

The neighborhood was nice to visit, and as you might have read in my first post about Barcelona, we tried to go back the next day because we loved it so much, but it was closed. Cheap and delicious, as is apparently my motto. 😉

The dog is hot
Raval
C/ Joaquin Costa n°47

Food + Drink in Lisbon

Note to self: never listen to French people when discussing the cuisines of other countries. Everyone I spoke to before going to Portugal told me the food was bland, that it was a meat-centric cuisine and that they were incapable of cooking it nicely. This made me worried for Ottilia (vegetarian). But we were surprised and delighted by the number of vegetarian restaurants we saw while strolling around. Sometimes it felt like we were in San Francisco, not Portugal! Many places seemed to be very French-influenced or otherwise global.

While exploring one day, we took note of one place, Planeta Bio, that looked nicer, and returned there on our last night in Lisbon. At 8pm, we were the only diners! (Later on, we walked by and noticed that it was packed and there was now a wait. It’s such a late-night city!) There were only 4 options on the menu, and you chose small or big and 2 or 3 dishes. That’s it.

Planeta Bio

Planeta Bio

Between the two of us we tried everything! There was moussaka, leek lasagna, leek gratin, and seitan korma. It came with a delicious, fresh salad and a choice of couscous or brown rice. Our only complaint was that it was not spicy enough. I suppose we could have asked for some sauce or something…anyways, it’s so nice to get healthy food like this while on vacation!

IMG_1160

One day we did a walking tour to learn a little bit about Lisbon, and afterwards we strolled around the winding cobblestone streets in the older part of town. I saw a sign for 1€ wine so of course I had to stop. We ended up stopping for a small glass of the green wine typical of Portugal and fell in love with the charming, cave-like bar. The woman who worked there was so nice, and there were plenty of lovely local liqueurs, sardines, honey, etc. that would make great gifts.

food and drink in lisbon

Yummy things to buy

ceiling of Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho

The ceiling

Another unique experience was checking out Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho, a nice little wine bar in a converted well-head/fountain space. It was a calm and romantic space, with sort of slow service but very nice people working. I have so much respect for waiters who have to walk up and down stairs, especially with tall bottles and delicate glasses! Anyways, I just really wanted to try some porto and they had several different types. We also got a chocolate mousse to share – it was more of a pot de crème or pudding than a mousse, but whatever the name it was chocolate-y and rich. Come here for very nice wine and a relaxing, chill ambiance – if I went back I would love to do the tasting menu!

wine bar in Lisbon

Looking down from the upper level

Switching gears to a more simple dining experience – we went to the modern area near the airport on the recommendation of someone from our hostel. This area was updated for the Expo ’98 and it looks quite different from all the cobblestone streets and tiled buildings found elsewhere in Lisbon. We rode the Telecabine and had a fun time checking out the view of the water, and when we got hungry we found an unassuming little restaurant that ended up being a great find!

Good views in Lisbon

View of the modern side of Lisbon from the skycrawler

roast chicken at waterfront Lisbon restaurant

Rice, fries, and a little salad were included with more than one meal we had – a strange but oddly satisfying trend in Lisbon

Unlike most other places we’d been to, not much English was spoken but we got by with hand gestures and saying a mix of Spanish and French words. Ottilia’s omelette was 4€ and my roast chicken was fabulous. Nearby diners were eating lots of different fish dishes that looked good for someone who loves seafood. I would 100% eat there again! I can’t find the name of the restaurant, but from some sleuthing on Google maps I believe the address is 103 on the street parallel to Rua Bojador and the waterfront, right around the corner from the north entrance of the Telecabine.

yummy portuguese restaurant

Planeta Bio
R. Francisco Sanches 39,
1170-141 Lisboa, Portugal

O Cantinho da Rute
R. Sao Miguel, 79
Lisboa, Portugal

Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho
Praça da Alegria
1250-000 Lisboa, Portugal

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Cheese shop

Lisbon – Queijaria (cheese shop)

I went to Lisbon and Barcelona with my bff Ottilia this month! I’ll post some of the highlights. Here’s the first – a lovely cheese shop right near our hostel.

Ottilia is such a cheese-lover that she is part of a cheese club, and I will never say no to some great cheese. Since we were eating so many meals out, two of our nights we decided to stop into this shop for a wedge of cheese to eat with wine for dinner. Could there be anything better?

Ottilia in front of the store

Ottilia in front of the store

I’ve never had such good service in a cheese shop! They gave such a warm welcome, and were able to speak English with us to answer all of our questions. The shop has a few rooms – the back tasting room is the place you want to be! We tasted tons of cheese – they have a selection of the best from Portugal, as well as some from Spain, France, and England. They had never heard of Vermont or Wisconsin but we suggested that they look into our favorite sharp American cheddars. They were so generous, even cutting new wheels open to let us taste.

Samples galore

Samples galore

The shop also carries different crackers, jams, and wine to go with the cheese. There was even a little section with boards, slicers, and books. They had a basket of these weird-looking things, and the man could not remember the translation in English. We were all very curious, so eventually we looked it up and it was carob – being familiar with vegetarian cooking, we knew it well. Funny to find it in Portugal!

Lovely selection

Lovely selection

I don’t think they have a website – but here is their address:

Queijaria
Rua das Flores, 64
1200-195 Lisboa
Phone: 21 346 04 74
Email: queijaria at quijaria.pt

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Food and drink

Chocolate Tart

I have to be honest – I was never that crazy about chocolate before I moved to Paris. I know, what is WRONG with me?! I think it is because I wasn’t exposed to much chocolate other than Hershey bars and the garnish on Starbucks Frappucinos…not the best stuff. My dad loved to give my mom a box of Sees candy (soft-centers only!) for Valentine’s Day and Christmas, and that was the only time I couldn’t resist eating chocolate.

crumbs!

crumbs!

After entering a world of Angelina’s, aisles of chocolate bars at the grocery stores, chocolateries, and buckets of mousse, I will never look back. OMG CHOCOLATE IS SO GOOD. I am a convert.

crumbs + butter, even better

crumbs + butter, even better

A few weeks ago I met a girl at a party who brought an amazing chocolate tart. I didn’t know until the end of the night that she is the author of one of the blogs I read! Anyways, I’ve been craving that tart ever since and since I haven’t gotten around to asking her for a specific recipe I just made my own and adapted it to the weird-sized pan I have.

Hello there. By the way the weather in Paris is HORRENDOUS right now

Hello there. By the way the weather in Paris is HORRENDOUS right now

Last weekend I had a study sleepover with some classmates to study for our final exam. One of these girls is leaving Paris so this was sort of a goodbye see you later gift/fancy study snack in one. That’s how I roll… 🙂

glossy glossy

glossy glossy

Chocolate Tart
adapted from Ready for Dessert

The filling makes a great ice cream topper too!

Ingredients

-10 chocolate cookies of 3-inch diameter (I used random Leader Price ones), crushed (approx 2 cups of chocolate cookie crumbs)
-50 grams/half a stick of butter, melted and cooled
-3 tbsp of hazelnut or almond meal
-200 grams of bittersweet chocolate
-3/4 cup of cream or half-and-half
-1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked in a small bowl
-1/4 cup sugar (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Crush cookies and combine with butter. Press into a pan – mine was a 7×7 inch square pan and I would recommend finding a bigger pan than mine, since the ganache layer was very thick and intense. Sprinkle hazelnut or almond meal evenly across top. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool. Leave the oven on.
In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water or in 10 second intervals in the microwave, melt together the cream and chocolate until combined, smooth, and glossy. Remove from heat and let cool a little. While whisking chocolate, add in eggs slowly. Taste and if mixture isn’t sweet enough to your liking, add the sugar and whisk again.
Pour ganache into prepared tart crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

Top view of tart

Top view of tart

Spiced Banana Bread

I think this is my new go-to banana bread. I added some buckwheat flour (apparently I’m becoming a little obsessed – I just made some pancakes with this flour too!), which I think makes the flavor a little deeper, and the spices compliment that well. The butter and eggs make it moist. I brought this to a choir rehearsal and it’s a good thing because I would have eaten way too much on my own!

why hello there

why hello there

Spiced Banana Bread
Adapted from here for the basic recipe and here for the spices

Ingredients

1.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus a tablespoon or two for dusting the pan
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed into about 1.5 cups
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 stick/6 tablespoons/85 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or add 1 sachet de sucre vanille to the sugar measuring cup before you measure the normal sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pain d’épices mix (or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, pinch of ground cloves, and a few grinds of black pepper)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, then dust the pan with flour.
2. Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
3. Add the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt to the wet mixture and mix until just combined.
4. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and top is brown.

This is what "mix until just combined" means

This is what “mix until just combined” means

Crème de Marrons + Buckwheat Flour Cookies with Fig Jam

finished cookies

This was my first time baking with buckwheat flour and I’m a convert! It has a deep and nutty flavor that plays well with the chestnut cream. Unlike all purpose flour which only serves to form other cookies, buckwheat flour becomes one of the main flavors of these cookies.

f

Ever since I first tried crème de marrons, I’ve wondered how it would taste in cookie form. I finally got around to testing it out, and I’m glad I did! I’ll warn you though: these are addictive!

Crème de Marrons Cookies with Fig Jam

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown or white sugar
1 packet of vanilla sugar (optional)
1/2 cup crème de marrons
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (if you have no vanilla sugar)
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
fig jam

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Cream together the butter and sugar(s) until smooth. Add the crème de marrons and egg and mix until smooth – the batter might get weirdly lumpy but don’t panic. Add flours, baking powder, and salt and mix batter until combined. Roll dough into balls that are 1.5 inches in diameter and then chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and use a small spoon to create a dip in the top. Fill each indentation with fig jam. Return cookies to oven, making sure to rotate the pan the other way. Bake 7-10 more minutes, or until cookies are set and starting to brown on the bottom.

Make space for the jam!

Make space for the jam!

Pumpkin Muffins

It’s fall!  The leaves are changing, I had to get my coats out of storage, good tomatoes are long gone, and I’ve been eating figs like it’s my job.  Pumpkin muffins are clearly the next step!

Pumpkin muffin and whiskey – perfect for a rainy day

Last week, my friend Phoebe and I had a great morning baking and eating these.  We ate them straight from the oven, so they were still warm, and the apricot chunks were melted and jammy.  The almonds on top added a nice nutty element and a bit of crunch to the super smooth and moist muffin below.

This nutmeg comes with a mini grater inside the jar! Love

If I were you, I would think twice about serving them to French people.  More for you and your pumpkin-appreciating taste buds!

Pumpkin Muffins
inspired by these

Ingredients

a small handful of apricots, cut into small chunks
enough whiskey to cover the apricots
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
one whole nutmeg, grated for 30 seconds
10 twists of black pepper
1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, browned and cooled
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin (if you are using canned, not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Prepare muffin tin with papers or butter if necessary.

Place apricots in a bowl with the whiskey and microwave for a minute.  Let them sit for at least 5 minutes.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, black pepper and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, pumpkin, mascarpone cheese, eggs, and vanilla.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Drain the apricots (save the whiskey and drink it!) and add them to the batter.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle each muffin with sliced almonds. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.