Edinburgh


Most people dislike travelling for work, but it’s quite the contrary for me. Especially when the reason is training on cool new technology and the trip backs up to a 3-day weekend. Perfect scenario to stay in Scotland and finally get over to Edinburgh. Since the training was a two-day course in Glasgow, a colleague and I flew up Wednesday night and were put up at a boutique hotel just next door to the office. Given the cold spell, this was ideal for avoiding the chill when walking to work.

Friday evening after training ended I hopped a bus to Edinburgh, where Joe was waiting for me after taking the train up. I had received a call several hours earlier that the room would not be ready for us and they were going to be moving us to another, nicer hotel for one night of the stay. Not the idea situation, but we did end up being upgraded for the following two nights along with free breakfast so I can’t complain. Most things were closed by the time I got there, so we made our way to dinner at Burgers and Beers Grillhouse, a rather hipster restaurant that had good food, a good atmosphere, and was nearby.

We managed to get a reasonably early start the next day, moving hotels and heading up to the castle just after they opened so we could beat the crowds. The castle is huge, enough to keep anyone busy for a couple hours easily. We wanted to stay until the 1pm gunfire, so we made our rounds to all of the buildings and displays, with time left to grab a coffee.

Managing to beat the crowds leaving after the gunfire, it was onwards and upwards. Literally. We climbed up to Arthurs Seat, which is no easy feat. We thought it would be a nice afternoon walk based on what concierge at the hotel suggested, but we were way off. That’s a straight upwards climb, and pure rock at the top. But the views were well worth it once we made it up. The next stop was the Holyrood palace and then back to the hotel for a much-needed rest. Dinner was at another hipster place nearby called The Whistle Stop Barber Shop which is a bar and restaurant upstairs, and literally has barber chairs downstairs.

After a good nights sleep, and rejuvenated legs, it was time for The Whisky Experience tour, and some perusing the other side of the city, New Town. That took us to Calton Hill & observatory, and Prices Street where all the shopping is. Basically the equivalent of Oxford Street in London and Michigan Avenue in Chicago. That evening we finally got around to doing a ghost tour of the city, as well as the underground vaults. Creepy to see but no ghosts on our tour there, sadly. The history of the city though…

It’s too bad Edinburgh is so far north and rarely much warmer than 70f/21c. It would be such an amazing summertime city. Overall, a huge success and trip we had been meaning to take for too long.

Polish Eats

IMG_7139

Polish food. Where to begin…

It really wasn’t all that different from any other place we’ve been. It’s becoming quite apparent that no matter where you travel, there is a variety of places to choose from, ranging from Chinese to Italian to none other than….American! We tried to reach a variety of places whilst there, and I think we did pretty well!

Evening #1 landed us at a place called Sphinx, right in the heart of Bydgoszcz. Although it’s a chain, it’s onlyIMG_7036 located throughout Poland so we didn’t feel quite so bad about it. The menu was extensive, with just about anything you could want available. Steaks, salads, burgers, pasta, etc. They have English versions of the menu available, which was appreciated, as neither of us know a lick of Polish. The waiter spoke English too, and was very accommodating. Apparently we got there just in time too. Just as our food was about to arrive, a large party of at least 15 people walked through the door. The decor inside was that of a jungle, and quite appropriate for the style of restaurant. It almost reminded me of a low-key Rainforest Cafe. Overall though, I’d say this was a successful dinner for our first night in Poland.

IMG_7050The next day was Joe’s birthday, which called for some celebration! We found a local restaurant around the corner and headed there for breakfast. Walking in, it looks like a country-style place, with wood floors and walls, and a mish-mash of decorations. The tables and chairs mismatched in a way that went perfectly together, and the ceiling was high, creating an open and inviting area. Service was first class, and the total bill for it all? No more than $24. Oh, and when we tried to tip, the machine wouldn’t take more that the equivalent of $4. Thankfully we had some cash on us as well.

Birthday dinner couldn’t come soon enough after brunch, with plans to go to Diner 52, an American style IMG_7060diner in the city centre. This place was decked out in American decor. American flags, confederate flags, a baseball-covered wall, Route 66 memorabilia, license plates, etc! The menu was too big to choose from, featuring burgers, Mexican fare, ribs, steaks, milkshakes…you name it and they had it! Joe had a birthday milkshake and a burger called the Diablo burger, meant to be very hot. Now since we’ve been living in London, we’ve learned that “hot” here means very mildly warm, and you might, if lucky, feel a little bite. So naturally, that was what he expected from this burger. Nope! That thing was spicy to top all spiciness. All the drinks in the world weren’t going to help the watering eyes and burning mouth that this burger caused. Even the McFlurry we got on the way back to the hotel made a minimal dent in the residual burn.

A few other notable places—

IMG_7129Bobby Burger. A great little place in the main square that features various burgers and salads that are large and come at very reasonable prices. The atmosphere in the restaurant is great, with a minimal warehouse-feel style. And on the last night, we went to Pizzeria Piratto, a local pizza place featuring a large outside seating area with tv’s for football and rugby games, and two entrances- one for the bar area and one with seating for the restaurant. Great food and very affordable by Poland standards, seeing as everything there was cheap to anyone coming from London.

Overall? A massive win.

L’Ulivo(The Olive)

[Photos to come soon!]

This week has been a hellish week, to say the very least. And for both of us too. So when I found out mid-week that a neighbour from Elgin was going to be passing through London with a few friends on her journey home, I got excited. Like, REALLY excited. I love it when people we know are in London and we can get together, even if only for a short while. And it’s even better when it’s someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

We made reservations at L’ulivo near Leicester Square, which was a perfect middle ground for everyone. We headed off from work and made our way there, getting the table and waiting for them to arrive. 45 minutes later, we finally connected and realised…we went to the two different restaurant locations. And we were definitely in the wrong on this one. They went to the right one, which thankfully was under a 10 minute walk, so we immediately headed over there.

The restaurant is located just off the main square, surrounded by several others. It’s in the perfect location for pre-theatre dinners, and with outdoors seating great for people-watching. They had already started on appetisers and wine, and since we had spent some time at the other location, we had already eyed through the menu and picked out what we wanted.

The food was wonderful, but the company was even better! The smiles and laughter made the night and t was hard to believe how late it was when we finally departed. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! Thank you again to the three lovely ladies who treated us to a great dinner and even better conversation to end such a long week.

Cooking in VA

Being in Virginia with Grandpa and Neal and a much more functional kitchen meant I could finally do some
proper cooking! And especially some of my favourites that I don’t get to make here very often. Pancakes, crepes, sausages, British eggs on toast, burgers….you name it! I even made a new pancake I’ve wanted to try before- cinnamon swirl. I wont go into detail on them, but here are some photos of the experiments! If you want any of the recipes, just shoot us a line and we’ll get it over to you!

 

Regular fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs and cheddar, and sausages
Regular fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs and cheddar, and sausages
BBQ Burgers stuffed with cheddar and a sunny side up egg on top

V for Vendetta style eggs on buttered toast

It’s Official!

It’s official!

I’ve been surprised. Beyond belief. As unexpected as it comes. Never in a million years did I expect this. And the story goes a bit like this…

We were “supposedly” going to a dinner for his work. Something that warranted a suit at least. And this said dinner was nearby Westminster. We were supposed to leave by 6ish, so I made sure all was OK with my boss and tried to get out a bit earlier than that so I could swing by for pre-drinks. That all went according to plan.

We left around 6 and headed to Westminster. Joe led the way, and with a minor wrong turn and 5 minute detour, we were finally on the right track. About a block away from this said dinner, we stopped so I could swap out of the walkable shoes into the painfully professional heels. (Oh yeah, I hate heels) Anyway, we were stopped on a corner with a gorgeous view of Westminster and even a horse drawn white carriage behind us. Not to mention a beautiful day!

As I stood up from swapping shoes, someone else got down on one knee. Nice suit and all, I might mention. (Really, who wants to ruin a suit knee?? But it’s worth it, right?) Oh yeah, and there’s no work dinner and the carriage is for us.

WHAAAAAAT?

Yes. The answer is yes, yes, yes.

Surprise #1.

The carriage took us all over London. People were waving as we passed by and the entire ride was perfect. Couldn’t have asked for more. It dropped us off near St. Pauls Cathedral at One New Change, a local shopping centre with various restaurants and such. We had a few minutes before dinner reservations and we decided to walk around a bit. I swapped shoes(again), and noticed Joe looking past me as though he saw someone… I should have caught on to something but nope. I guess surprise will get the best of you.

We headed over to a centre square about a block away that had a small chapel and a restaurant, and then I saw who had been noticed earlier. One person, and then two, and then four! All four parents popped out of the chapel archway. Cue jaw drop.

“Oh, and you don’t have to work tomorrow.”

If there’s a record to be set for surprising the least surprisable person, I think it was just set.

Dinner was at Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa, a deliciously fantastic restaurant with plenty to choose from. By the time we were finished, everyone was exhausted and we began the walk back to everyone’s hotels, walking past my old office for a view of it lit up at night.

Ok, you got me. You got me good this time. But just you wait… I have a few things of my own up my sleeve.

Food Revelation

There are endless food markets in London and you can be sure that you will never go hungry, or get sick of the offerings. The pop-up revolution going on here is incredible as well. Food trucks line the plazas and streets at lunchtime during the week and invade the markets on the weekends where the masses keep coming back for more. For any aspiring chefs and bakers, this is the place to be. Several of them only work on the weekends so they can maintain a day job to help fund their startup. Brilliant if you ask me. But you didn’t, did you?

This evening we decided to stay local and check out the Street Feast Model Market in Lewisham, a short 15 minute walk or DLR ride from home. On a day as absolutely gorgeous as today, we chose to walk it. You don’t get many sunny, warm weekends like this one, and we wanted to make the most of it. Not to mention walk off a bit of what dinner was going to entail.

Lewisham Street Market had a huge offering of very American-style food, with some Mexican and Italian mixed in there. Over half of the pop-ups had some sort of BBQ on offer, along with Nachos, Tacos, Pizza, and freshly made fruit ice cream made right there in front of you. Ok, maybe the ice cream part wasn’t, but you could watch them mix in the fruit and blend it right there so you knew the fruit was fresh and healthy.
Our first stop was for a starter of Nachos from Club Mexicana. Loaded with beans, salsa, and guacamole, these were as close to proper Mexican nachos as you can get in the London/UK area. At least when compared to the various Mexican and Spanish-style restaurants we’ve visited in the past couple of years.

Next up was SmokeStak, offering proper BBQ ribs and brisket at a somewhat reasonable price. Served with onions, red peppers and sauce, the brisket was cooked to perfection. There was seating available at Smokestak as well, so we perched there to people-watch while enjoying the meal. The mix of people at these types of events is very diverse and entertaining when you actually sit back and watch them. Oh, and the number of incredibly pregnant women there…you couldn’t even count with fingers and toes. Which leads me to wonder what happened 8 or 9 months ago that forced people to stay inside? ūüôā

If you’re ever in the Lewisham area in the Summertime on a Friday or Saturday and find yourself hungry- take a wander in here and check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The Play that Went Right

It’s been a while since I’ve updated on our whereabouts around London and it’s about time I did so!

We finally, after too many years, made it to the West End to see a play this weekend. I know, long overdue! We made an evening of it, going to Bill’s Restaurant for dinner first, which is right around the corner from the theatre.

The restaurant has a creative barn and garden style feel to it, with small white iron tables outside, and wooden inside. There are two floors, both of which could fit a large number of people. We managed to get there around 5:30 before the masses thankfully, but on such a nice evening, I could see it being packed by 7pm. We began with some Kale chips, which ended up being mine as Joe wasn’t a fan. At all. Rabbit food, right? This was followed by a salad and the BBQ evening special.
Conscious of the time, we finished and made our way to the theatre so we could get to our seats before everyone else arrived. The theatre was rather small and personal, with our seats being a couple of feet from the stage and the back of the room being only a few metres back. Whilst waiting, some of the cast members were on stage and made a few “announcements”, setting the scene for the play. The Play that Goes Wrong. A play about a play that goes seriously wrong. I haven’t laughed so hard in quite some time. The cast was well-chosen, with each person representing and looking their part much better than other plays I’ve seen in the past.

The play actually almost reminded me of a middle school play that’s going wrong and they’re trying to do everything possible to restore it. Not that I have any experience with that myself…

Anyway, I would highly recommend the play to anyone who’s in the mood for a good laugh. The theatre is very conveniently located in the West End by many restaurants and city life, making it a great day-in-the-city type of thing to do.

The evening ended with some ice cream before a train ride home to sit on the balcony and take in the city a bit. Have I mentioned recently how much I love London?

Homemade Ribs and Chili Sauce

Making Ribs in a tiny London flat and no grill isn’t the easiest. Our oven doesn’t understand the concept of “temperature regulation” and tends to follow the one-temperature-fits-all mindset. Not to mention we don’t have a pot large enough to boil the ribs in cola first, etc etc. Everything going against us, yet we still conquered!

We made a¬†dry rub for flavour, composed of garlic, paprika, cumin, brown sugar, salt, pepper and onion. After taking off the membrane and placing the ribs in their “boats” or tin foil wrapper bottoms, we put the seasoning on and added a pinch of water to the boat. Into the oven and fingers crossed!

The main goal of the day was a homemade chili sauce, of which the ingredients are nearly impossible to find. Britain doesn’t do “spicy” in the same way we think of it. Hot chili peppers are hard to come by in the shops so we had to venture out to Waitrose to do some specialty shopping first. Scotch Bonnets ended up being the hot pepper of choice for the day. This recipe also called for a carrot base rather than tomato, which I think we would change the next time we try it. Some onion, spices, then all blended together and¬†voil√†! A huge batch of chili sauce.

It isn’t¬†as hot as we wanted it to be but the¬†flavour is still¬†delicious.

Mexican Lasagne

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo! It’s been a while, but Those Damn Americans cooking edition are back again and taking on Mexican Lasagna! A brilliant idea found on Facebook an adapted a bit to suit the ingredients available at the store and palate of ThoseDamnAmericans. Made with tortillas instead of lasagne sheets, the recipe still follows the traditional layers of carb, meat and cheese.

Since there isn’t a wide variety of Mexican food at the store, we had to made do with what we could find. The simple list:
Refried beans
Black beans
Salsa
Tortillas
Jalape√Īos
Ground Turkey
Chilli beef seasoning
Red onion
Cheese- Cheddar, since Mexican blend doesn’t exist here

We had a round pan which was perfect with the round tortillas. A bit of trimming around the edges made them fit perfectly. Spreading some of the refried beans on each tortilla first, we laid each down in the pan and sprinkled a bit of meat on top. Following the meat, we added a bit of onion, black beans, jalape√Īos, and cheese before adding another tortilla and repeating. By the time we filled the pan, we had four layers of cheesy, meaty goodness.

Delicioso!

Heliot Steakhouse

There are few things that give me more satisfaction than eating. ¬†It is an addiction. ¬†However, unlike Alcohol or smoking or drugs for some ‚Äď eating is essential to sustaining life. ¬†If not kept in check the consequences of over indulging can be hazardous to your health. ¬†Case in point ‚Äď me ballooning to 320 Lbs, 200/100 Blood Pressure, pre-diabetic conditions, Size 48 pants, etc in 2012.

The weekly food pics that you see Bri post on FB or TDA used to be daily or twice daily occurrences in my previous life. I eat much healthier now and work out daily.  I dropped to roughly 180Lbs, normal Blood Pressure, and comfortable in size 34 pants.  Despite all of this, I still need to feed the monkey.  I still need those ridiculously sized or ridiculously calorie ridden meals.  However, instead of doing it twice a day, I may do it once a week.

Well, ¬†this past weekend was a blowout. ¬†As part of my traditional annual Bonus Payout dinner, I chose of course steak and scotch. ¬†Boy oh boy did I choose steak and scotch. ¬†I let Bri choose the venue. As if channeling Dr Jones, Bri chose‚Ķ‚Ķwisely. ¬†Bri knows my requirements ‚Äď Steak, and a lot of it. ¬†She made her decision based on the fact the the menu categorised the steak by small, medium, and large. ¬†A rule I have for this annual tradition is that cost and amounts are of no consequence. ¬†It was clear that Bri knew this all too well when she suggested that I get two or three different large steaks.

So, not wanting to disappoint her, I did!  I started out with a few rounds of Talisker neat double Scotch’s.  This got me ready to make the important decision, the meat.  This was quite easy.  I ordered the 650 Gram T-Bone, the 500 Gram (arguably larger) Sirloin, Chips as
well as 3 sauces ‚Äď B√©arnaise, Garlic Butter, and Chefs Gravy. ¬†The only dissatisfying part of the meal was the knife. ¬†The steaks were cooked perfectly Medium Rare and the sauces were super duper. ¬†Though not as good as Boisdale or Goodman ‚Äď the price of the steaks were half, allowing more spending on Talisker and after dinner cigars.

With this place now in the books there’s¬†a¬†new ranking for steak joints in London ‚Äď 1) Goodman 2) Boisdale 3) The Heliot Steakhouse at the Hippodrome 4) Hawksmoor.

-J

Londons Cuban Finest

Tonight was Cuban night for us. A night out in London was way overdue, and we wanted a bit of Latin-American influence thrown in there. Joe found this place called Floridita in the SoHo area, known for it’s live Cuban music and drinks, and an amazing atmosphere. We made our booking earlier today, which was surprising as it’s known to fill up on Saturday nights, but 7:30 was wide open! Apparently we’re early birds compared to the vast majority of London night-lifers.

The entrance to the restaurant is shared, where you walk inside and are greeted with two host stands, one for an upstairs venue and one for Floridita which is downstairs. As you walk down the stairs, the lighting and music set the mood for the restaurant; dark red lights and latin music that’s¬†just loud enough but still allows for casual conversation.

Our table was situated with a perfect view of the small dance floor and stage, off to the side where there was little foot traffic or people trying toget past your seat. The service and attention was incredible, even by our US standards. The minute you bat an eyelash, there’s someone by your side asking if you wanted something. By European standards, this is basically unheard of.

The drinks menu was a small booklet with latin-inspired cocktails and no shortage of rum infusions. The food menu, however, was quite short with a somewhat lacking variety, but enough for anybody to at least find something that would suit their taste buds. They have two options: 2 courses or 3 courses, ie- dinner either with or without dessert. After ordering, what was probably the only mistake of the night was made. We got drink number 1, which was meant to be a White Russian, but arrived looking like a fruit punch in a champagne glass. The drink was promptly replaced though(Darn! Should have downed it before they came back.)

The appetiser of charcuterie, ham, salchichon, and chorizo showed up within minutes of ordering, and the quesadillas weren’t long after the first plate was removed. Well done, Floridita! Same with the drinks. Even as the night got older and the place filled up, drinks were prompt and no additional mistakes were made. Impressive!

Tables there on a Friday and Saturday night have a two-hour limit, and once we hit our limit, we paid and made our way upstairs and next door to the neighbouring cigar bar, Casa Del Habano. A tiny place with room for no more than 12 and a walk-in humidor in back, they sell only cuban cigars, and at some of the most affordable prices available in London. We’ve frequented Boisdales cigar lounge in Belgravia and Canary Wharf, and their prices are nearly double what we paid at Casa Del Habano.

We ended up chatting with some locals there who we quickly learned really know their whisky and cigars. Down to the names and best years for each one. Impressive! And really nice guys too. One works for a local law firm and the other in IT for a bank, giving us more than enough to chat and connect over. As our cigars were nearing their end, we closed up the conversation, trading contact details, and made our way home for the night.

Of the places we’ve been to in London, these make the top of the list by far!

Meet Argentina

Ever go to a restaurant, look at a menu and want it all? ¬†That happens nearly every time to me, but hold the fish. ¬†Well, Bri surprised me with a place for dinner that accommodated my desire for copious amounts of meat and varieties galore ‚Äď with no requirement of fish. ¬†Scanning over the menu there were so many ‚ÄėI must consume that‚Äô moments. ¬†

Then, there is was. ¬†If Im not mistaken I believe I saw a light shine on the menu pointing to a particular point on the menu, angels began to sing, I weeped. ¬†What heavenly option was set before me? ¬† One that consisted of a full steak, full pork loin, chicken breast, chorizo, and half rack of ribs. ¬†There may have been a vegetable worked in there somewhere ‚Äď but I can be bothered to remember it. I ordered, and believe the waiter gave me a ‚Äėare you sure‚Äô kind of look. ¬†

Not only was I sure ‚Äď I was 2 steps away from slapping him for doubting me and single handedly going into the kitchen and overseeing the operation. ¬†I let it slide, and waited patiently at my table. ¬†While talking to Bri, complimenting her on the venue selection and impressive ability to guess what I would order before even going to the place, I performed mental and physical exercises to prepare myself for what lie in my near future. ¬†I see the waiter come towards the table with a tray. ¬†My heart races as if on a roller coaster ‚Äď the sound of the mans shoes to the floor mimicking the clicking sound of the coaster as it nears the peak. ¬†

What happened over the next 20-30 minutes can only be described in simple words and adjectives ‚Äď confused, ravenous, anger, sin, pleasure, satisfaction, bloating, crying, joy, sorrow. ¬†The restaurant and especially the meal brought about emotional change within me at a spiritual level. ¬†

Bravo Meet Argentina.  Bravo.

The Yacht

This weekend was a lazy weekend, and a much deserved one at that. So after a day of lounging around, we needed to get out. Joe wanted to see a movie, and I wasn’t feeling well enough to want to join but we wanted to at least go out together beforehand. So he picked a restaurant in the Cutty Sark – Greenwich area and headed there. Appropriately named The Cutty Sark, it’s a local pub on Belfast Quay within walking distance of Cutty Sark DLR, and home if it were nice outside. But it’s still February. Enough said.

After a bone-chilling walk over there and a few great photos of the Old Royal Naval College, we find out the place is booked solid for the night, and there’s not a seat to be found by the bar. So we re-trace our steps to The Yacht, a restaurant down a little side walkway with a great atmosphere. With plenty of open seats and a view over the water, we found the perfect place for dinner.

You’d never know, but this place is a branch of Young’s bars, and has a menu to match. A variety of choices from soup to fish, burgers to cheesecake, there’s anything you can think of. So when it came time to order the choice was….

NACHOS!

A proper, American-style dish, served with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. The only thing they don’t quite understand here is cheese. There’s never much there. Aside from that, the jalape√Īos were plentiful and the meat was spiced just right. With some quiet music in the background and good conversation for a couple hours, it was the perfect evening out.

Valentines Day Dinner

IMG_4951Valentines Day is the day for lovers, roses, chocolates, and over-booked restaurants. Even 60 miles out of London. We had a long day exploring Bletchley Park nearby Milton Keynes, seeing all the technological innovations that took place there during world war 2, and exploring the neighbouring town, Milton Keynes. By mid afternoon, we were exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel for a nap and relaxation before heading out for dinner that evening.

One good nap, some FaceTime with my parents, and a slight emergency with the house in the US later, we were ready to head out. Murphy’s Law, right? And of course we’re in another town last-minute, which meant no reservations for Valentines Day either. This could be interesting.

There isn’t a large area to walk around or explore in Bedford, so we walked across the bridge where there was a known little shopping centre with restaurants. IMG_4950The cobblestone streets twisted around and led us through back alleyways with hidden restaurants and bars
down each one. A very cute area to say the least!

We came across a little Italian place called The Pantry which looked promising. The menu had something for everyone, and the place had a very homely feeling. It was obviously family owned and operated, which left the assumption that the food was probably made with the same care. After waiting for 20 minutes whilst their reservations showed up, we realised that waiting was probably going to be a bad idea.

On to the next. On the way there, we had seen a few good places, so we went next door to our fallback, the Riverside Grill. A bit less cozy with a very open-style layout, this was a much more corporate looking place with clean lines and modern furniture. The people, however, seemed friendlier and more inviting. We were seated immediately (yay!) and the menu was promising.

The wait to have our order taken was quite long, but worth it. The appetiser of chicken wings came out promptly, smothered in sauce and smelling delicious. Then came the main- a beef brisket burger with chips and salad. Beef brisket,as we’re finding out more and more, is a rather rare find in UK restaurants, and of the places we do find it, there’s usually a lot left to be desires. Plus, unlike¬†London, the prices were reasonable and the portions were actually acceptable for the reasonable prices. What a concept!

Overall, dinner was a success. Even the wait at one restaurant before moving on made the night more enjoyable, people watching and enjoying a few laughs. I usually hate Hallmark holidays, but this time around, it wasn’t too bad. ūüôā Happy Valentines Day everyone!
IMG_4949

Cambridge

I managed to drive on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car around countless roundabouts, and tiny streets without getting in an accident.  So, automatic win for me!  Its no wonder why smart people come out of Cambridge.  It has a setting that promotes studying.  It’s a really large campus in a fairly vast city.  It’s amazingly picturesque with its narrow cobblestone streets, centuries old buildings, and hidden passageways to hole in the wall café’s. 

If it wasn’t for all of the college aged kids walking around, on their bikes, or on the field playing lacrosse, you wouldn’t actually know that is was a college town.  The classrooms were tucked away, out of site, sometimes requiring a walk through a quiet park to an alley that led you to a stone building and a spiral staircase to get to the room.  At one point, I was scared to say that it actually creates an atmosphere that encourages you to study. 

A sad point though, at least from our perspective, is that the town seemed tainted.¬† On all of those cobblestone streets, down those passageways, we were hoping to see mom and pop shops, family owned cafes, a classic pub.¬† What we got was Starbucks, TKMaxx, Boots.¬† It‚Äôs not that we are super cultured or that we put our noses up to such conformity and commercialization.¬† It actually makes a whole lot of sense for corporations to take advantage of the concentrated wealth that exists in that town.¬† However, it gives you a different appreciation for the history of the buildings, of the environment, of the culture when you can experience it first hand in all aspects ‚Äď including the avoidance of commercialization.¬† All of the old cities, like Canterbury, Dublin, Prague, Florence, and especially London have the heavy commercial areas, but are complimented nicely by ‚Äúold Town‚ÄĚ areas.¬† In all fairness, we may have simply not had enough time to see all the sites given the size of the place.¬† Commercial or not,¬†Cambridge is amazing and will be worth a revisit.¬† If you can find a town slightly outside of the city, that may be best though 200 Pound per night for a basic room will leave you with little money to spend on all those commercial shops.¬† After walking about, it was time for me to get some lunch.

After much searching, we found a non-chain restaurant.  The setting was as picturesque as you could ask for.  It was a cozy place that had a limited but straightforward menu.  Unfortunately, the points they gained in setting and service were quickly lost with food.  The Potato skins were pretty good but the featured Sunday Roast was of equal taste as that of rubber.  That’s quite all right.  The experience allowed us to find Jesus (Jesus St, that is), which lead us back to the car park and thus we were on our way back to London.

 

Boisdale


This has been a long week. A very long week. And last week, Joe was in Ireland, which you can read about here. So we were due for a date night, badly. The original idea was to go to dinner and a movie, but Saturday was another day of work for me this weekend which meant no late night out. Likewise, we were due for an evening of catching up and putting us first, rather than staring at a screen. So that was that decided.

As per usual, I started looking at things to do, places to go, etc etc. But Joe had other ideas, and I was no longer allowed to plan. Hmm.

Right after work we headed out, I with no idea where we were off to and following along blindly. A short
walk later, we were there. Boisdales. One of the first places we ever went after Joe moved here, although one of their other, more convenient locations right on the wharf. And with significantly better views. Perfect date night idea.

For those who don’t know, Boisdales is known as a London staple for all things Cigar, Whisky, and Steak related. They have a wonderful choice of cigars in their¬†in-house humidor, and a lovely heated cigar terrace, as well as indoor smoking lounge for those bitterly cold evenings. All of this is beside the large bar where you have a vast array of whiksy and spirits to choose from to accompany your cigar.

Our first venture to Boisdales was to the Belgravia location near Victoria station. An aged location that is quite warm, cozy, and homely. The ceilings are low, the dining room is quiet, and the overall location is quite small. The Canary Wharf location is quite theopposite, although still very romantic. It probably didn’t help that it was a Friday night either, which means the bar will be jam packed until at least midnight with business people drinking away their work week worries. This location is large, with high ceilings and very grand looking woodwork throughout. The downstairs bar is a massive semicircle that takes up half the floor, with views that overlook half of the wharf. The upstairs…well I’ll get to that later.

The humidor, located next to the downstairs bar, is a large, walk-in style closet with a cigar connesseur there to help guide you with your selection and answer any questions. We got drinks, made our cigar selections, found seats and settled in until our dinner reservations. Perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and talk. Just what the week had ordered up for us. An hour later it was reservation time and we headed upstairs.

The upstairs dining room is a large and specious open room, with a huge bar in the middle, and a round, gallery-style window overlooking the wharf with tables alongside. Being a two-person reservation, we got a table right next to the window. The view, the candle, and the lovely music made for the perfect evening atmosphere.

Dinner began with some of the best French Onion soup we’ve ever seen. Just the smell of it was to die for. Next up, Joe was finally able to get some much-deserved steak, seeing as he wasn’t able to get any in Dublin. And at quite a reasonable price compared to some of the other places we’ve been, like Goodmans and Hawksmoor. It may not be just as delicious, but if you can have it three times over for the same price as one time at the other places, I’d say it’s worth going three times instead. I digress. Dinner was wonderful, and as the evening came to a close, I didn’t want to leave. The view, the candlelight, and the conversation was just what we needed.

Dublin Does Food

My first love, food. I can’t get enough of it. The thought of going to a restaurant is a similar feeling to that of a child on Christmas Eve night, imagining what treasures await him. The Irish are not known for their food. I suppose that once you drink as much as they do, by that time, anything tastes good. If you are looking for a city that is a mecca for great restaurants, Dublin is likely not your place.

However, of all the places I went, two of them surely stood out. A simple man with a simple pallet, they are themselves simple ‚Äď burgers and barbeque. Bunsen is the first place I went to, and by far my favorite. I chose it because it had great reviews on Google, with respectable prices. I was the first to arrive. I was amazed to be greeted by a welcoming wait staff. This seems to not be the norm in Europe at all. I sit down, looking for a menu. Oh! There it is! It‚Äôs not so much a menu as it is a business card listing their extremely basic menu. Burger, double burger, cheese, sides. I actually found the menu quite charming and straight to the point. It gives the sense of ‚Äėthis is who we are. If you don‚Äôt like it, get out.‚Äô I respect that.

They do not do much, but what they do ‚Äď they do well. I of course ordered a double cheeseburger with Chips. They actually asked how I wanted it cooked; I haven‚Äôt heard that in a long time. When they brought it out, I was impressed with the size and the quality. The patties were very large (also not a norm for the UK) and seemed to be freshly prepared, not frozen pre-packed burgers. I had to force myself to slowly eat the burger, so I can enjoy it. The fries were very good; nothing special besides that they are deep fried potatoes‚Ķyou don‚Äôt need much more than that.

The second place worth mentioning is somewhere I didn‚Äôt expect to see in Dublin‚Ķa BBQ place. Bri knows that when I see a sign for bbq, there will be little chance for me to choose anything else. I actually saw the place while on my morning run. It‚Äôs a good thing that I got in a good run because what I decided to order was what my mother would call ‚Äúsinful.‚ÄĚ BBQ places aren‚Äôt fair. They have all the best stuff that it makes it incredibly difficult to not order the entire menu. Fortunately at this place, they had a meat platter! Choose 3 out of 5 meats for 19 Euro, which comes with 2 sides. When each meat by itself costs about 14Euro, I believe that I made a wise financial decision in ordering the meat platter. Brisket, Ribs, and Pulled Pork were my meaty choices and mac and cheese and fries were my sides.

They brought the platter out in no time. Each meat stacked upon each other, like a mound of sexiness waiting to be ravished ‚Äď and ravish I did. I started with the sides first, to get them out of the way so I can focus appropriately. Sides were fine, nothing to write home about ‚Äď to be honest I wasn‚Äôt really paying attention and saw the sides as more of an obstacle to get to the meat. Each meat was perfectly cooked. BBQ can be tough to prepare. A lot of times I find that ribs aren‚Äôt tender enough, pulled pork too fatty, and brisket too dry. That was ot the case at Pitt Bro‚Äôs. Each of the meats were better than the last. All were accompanied by a really nice sauce. If there were room for improvement, it would be the ribs. The ribs themselves were great. However, the menu didn‚Äôt list choices of ribs. A lot of other places would list different sauces, rubs, etc. I am a rib snob, enjoy a really good dry rub. I didn‚Äôt see an option for this at Pitt Bro‚Äôs. Nonetheless it was a fantastic place with really good prices.

Dublin Drinks

‚ÄúWhiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then its time to drink.‚ÄĚ I enjoy myself a glass/bottle of whiskey. Ireland is a great place to experience both whiskey and beer. Dublin is a place that prides itself not only on their ability to drink, but also on how alcohol is central to their heritage, social, and economic pillars.

Though Whiskey is my preferred drink, I will start by discussing Guinness. I‚Äôm not a beer drinker overall. However, if I do drink beer, I do prefer a stout ‚Äď specifically Guinness. When you arrive in Dublin, you are overtaken by the brand of Guinness. They truly pride themselves on Guinness and how the company themselves essentially financed much of Dublin since their inception. That said, I learned a lot. I had planned to go to the Guinness Storehouse before vising Dublin. Originally this was due to the fact that it was something that you are supposed to do as a tourist. However, after visiting St Peters Green, St Patrick‚Äôs Cathedral, Dublin Castle my interest morphed from tourist checklist to more genuine interest on what Guinness was all about.

These other attractions demonstrated a different perspective on a company that has made money off the vices of others. They demonstrated the truly philanthropic history of Guinness which impressed me quite a bit. The Guinness family has provided thousands of jobs not only in their company, but supporting industry. It can be argued that this alone is enough. However. Guinness has a long history in city investment, including the creation and donation of Dublin parks and the restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Though they touch on this slightly in the Guinness storehouse tour, it is not the focal point, which is refreshing. Though I have an increased appreciation for Guinness and their history, their tour was quite disappointing. I have been to a few brewery tours in the US, both small and large. They were all personal, with dedicated tour guides and detailed explanations. The Guinness Storehouse tour was like watching a high-tech documentary on the History channel. However, there were a few good points that are lacking in other brewery tours. They provided interactive exhibits that show you how to pour a proper Guinness, as well as explanation of how to best smell and drink a Guinness. Though their brewing demonstration was not that great, I think their tour was more useful to the normal everyday person. They may not show you all the details of how to brew a beer, but come on ‚Äď its not like you are going to go start your own brewery. What they do demonstrate is how to appreciate your beer, which speaks volumes on the pride they have in their product.

Okay, enough of the beer. Lets spend a short bit of time on Whiskey. Though Dublin is a great place to experience whiskey, its also a ridiculously expensive place to experience whiskey. It boggles my mind how a bottle of Jameson, Bushmills, Redbreast, etc in Ireland can cost so much more than in the UK or US. This actually bothers me quite a bit. It gies you the impression that they are trying to capitalize on the tourist industry just that much more. Everyone will by a Jameson in Dublin, why do you need to gouge them for 5 more Euro a bottle? Shame on you Jameson. That said, I still drank Whiskey while here. ‚ėĻ I cant be stopped simply by higher prices, though Bri may not be too happy about that. In protest, I did buy a cheaper though arguably equivalent bottle of Bushmills. This bottle was my warm up each night so I didn‚Äôt spend ridiculous amounts at local pubs. The local pubs though add so much to the experience though. It is easy to capitalize on the tourist industry in Dublin. Open a bar, paint it green or red, and add some live and/or traditional music and you got all you need to be successful.

I went to two pubs, The Auld Dubliner and the Norseman. Both of these pubs were really enjoyable. Yes, they were painted red/green, they had live music, etc. However, the most attractive point of both is that they were not ass to nuts busy. You could walk in, not be overcrowded and actually find a seat and enjoy the live music. The Dubliner had a very relaxed atmosphere to where you can hear the person next to you but had a limited whiskey selection. The staff was nice and attentive, provided a very hospitable and relaxed environment. The Norseman was much busier though this might have been due to being there on a Friday night versus Thursday night. I preferred the environment of the Dubliner, but the Whiskey selection in the Norseman where rare Taliskerr and Middleton offerings were on the menu.

Before moving on to my Redbreast and Talisker servings, The Norseman offered a Jameson Tasting Tray for a reasonable price. They offered 3 25Ml glasses filled with Jameson 12 Year, Reserve, and Gold. Limited to Jameson, it would be great if a pub offered tastings well beyond that of just the most well known brand of Whiskey in the world. Perhaps when we trek to Scotland, we may have better luck for variety and price.

Overall it seems that Dublin is more about making money off of their whiskey industry than appreciating it like Guinness appreciates its beer.

Berlin Food

As most everyone knows, our lives, holidays, nights out, just about everything revolves around food in some way. And with the various markets in Berlin and the Christmas spirit, what better time than now to experience some proper German beer and bratwurst? The fact that there is a Christmas market next to our hotel only supported this too. Perfect! Short walk, good food, great sights. Ahhh, this is the dream.

We just left our last lunch in Berlin to head for the airport,and reflecting back on all the places we stopped to eat made me realise just how much we were able to fit in on such a short trip. A few of the places we went deserve their own space and posts, but the others below are just as noteworthy.

IMG_4570Day 1. Recovery. After such an eventful experience just getting to Berlin, we needed a day to recuperate. Since the market was next door to the hotel and we just wanted to explore and experience the town a bit, we decided to grab a bite of proper German food there. After perusing all of the stalls, we came across a 1/2 metre bratwurst. And the decision was made for us. That night also garnered some all-you-can-eat ribs, but that, as stated earlier, definitely deserves its own post here.

IMG_4629Day 2. Christmas Eve. As with most places that are predominantly Christian, the majority of stores and restaurants were either closed or closed early on Christmas eve. This was to be expected. But what wasn’t expected was the extent of this in a large tourist area. So our Christmas eve dinner consisted of the only place open in the immediate area; A Chinese restaurant. There’s a first for everything, right?

 

Day 3. SANTA CAME! SANTA CAME! Merrrrrrrry Christmas! There was more open ON Christmas than there was Christmas eve. Go figure! Even the market was open. Makes no sense to me. Anyway, we had¬†found a church for mass and it ended up being across the street from an American 60’s style diner. How appropriate!The mass, which ended up being in German even though the website suggested English, was still going when we left after an hour and a half. I pity those who stayed for the entire thing. We made our way over to the diner and had a lunch never to be forgotten. So much so that it warrants it’s own post, which you can read more about here, in A Route 66 Christmas.
Day 4. Kababs and Hamburger Mary’s. We went out for the day and stopped back off at the market for a snack along the way. Simple pork kebabs with seasoning in a bun. The bun was about the length of your hand, whilst the kebab was about 4 times longer which led me to believe that the bun was merely there to make holding the kebab easier. The food highlight of the day was Hamburger Mary’s though. This place was quirky, eccentric, modern, fun, and the list goes on. The restaurant is in the lobby of a hotel, with a very modern, clean style about it. The colours are bright and numerous, and the decor was that of a pinup girl.¬†The menu had all sorts of classic american goodies on it from quesadillas to mac & cheese fried bites to loaded fries, and the topper? All sorts of burgers. BBQ Bacon, Hawaiian, jalape√Īo spicy, and the list goes on. Choose the burger, choose the meat, and choose your side. Build-your-own-meal. And the kicker? (No pun intended here) The bill comes to your table in a stiletto heeled shoe.

IMG_4709Day 5. The final day. We had to leave for the airport early-mid afternoon which didn’t leave all that much time for anything today, but we were still able to get to the burger restaurant Joe has been eyeing since we first got to Berlin. Jim Block, “Das Hamburger Original”. At first we thought it was a full restaurant, but afterlooking at it for a few days every time we walked past, we realised it was closer to a fast food place than anything, but still worth trying out! We headed there before¬†going back to the hotel to get our things and head to the airport. Similar to Hamburger Mary’s, Jim Block offers all kinds of burgers, including a pulled beef and bbq option. Yep, you guessed it. That was the choice of the day!IMG_4711

Overall, I’d say this trip was a foodie’s success. Dontcha agree?

A Take on French Toast

The whisky was flowing a bit too fluidly (no pun intended) last night and this morning meant a bit of recovery. Any normal person would call for take-away or go to a diner, but us? No, we grin and bear it, cooking through the pain.

Pancakes were the desired option, but as many of us know, probably not the best choice. We had stopped at the shop last night and picked up a few things, so I decided to go with a happy medium that incorporated the sweetness and syrup of pancakes with protein to help with the alcohol recovery.

The answer? Stuffed french toast. Some eggs and meat for protein with sugar and syrup to satisfy the sweet tooth.

It was so simple too! We had some chilli sausages and jalape√Īos to make a savoury frenchie, and some jam and mashed banana for the sweet one.

To make the sausage one, I cooked the sausage and chopped it up with the jalape√Īos, dipped the bread in the egg, stuck the sausage mixture in between the two slices, and let it cook. Pretty straightforward, and it gave me time to make the filling for the next one while it cooked.

For the sweet filled french bread, I mixed a frozen banana, strawberry jam, and some syrup together to make a sort of a compote. For this one, due to the nature of the filling, I placed it between the bread slices first and then dipped the entire sandwich in the egg before placing it in the pan to cook.

To top, I used the leftover filling on the sweet frenchie and topped both with some additional syrup before serving. Now where can you for made-to-order french toast like this? Totally worth staying home for!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. A time to give thanks for what we have and the people we have in our lives. Thankfully (no pun intended) we were able to stay through Thanksgiving while back in the states for Pat’s wedding. Since they had just celebrated the wedding, most of the out-of-town family had already gone back, but the wedding could almost be considered a pseudo-Thanksgiving. Everyone was still giving thanks for being together and celebrating such a great event. And those living in the area were still able to get together on Thanksgiving day, which was a lot of fun. Seeing all the kids running around and playing is so much fun. I miss seeing that in our own family now that everyone is grown up.

For my family, my Aunt and Uncle came in for a few days, and being that I hadn’t seen them in years, it’s been really nice to have a few days to catch up. Sure, we chat on Facebook, but that just isn’t the same as good old-fashioned face-to-face time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course we can’t forget friends. I didn’t get much chance to see anyone aside from family while back home, but I was at least able to make a 10 minute pit stop at Kai’s Thanksgiving Party for a few friends on Wednesday night, and swing by to see my favourite runners Thanksgiving morning. Every time I go home, I’m reminded of what great people are there and how much I miss them all, although I still wouldn’t change a thing with where we live right now.

Although Thanksgiving is over and we’ve moved on to leftovers and recovery today, I plan to make this a year full of Thanksgiving, rather than just a day of it.

B

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole. An interesting name for an interesting dish.

Among some of the most traditional British eats is this simple, cheap meal. Having been mentioned as far back as the late 1700’s, it is presumed this dish has existed for several years prior to adopting the funny name ‘Toad in the Hole’. Made from scraps of meat left at the end of the day at the butcher, and a batter mix, the meal is very cheap to make, which is probably what led to it’s popularity throughout the years. As time went by, these scraps were traded for sausages, and the name ‘Toad in the Hole’ is thought to have arisen because the sausage ends look like frog eyes popping up from the hole in the ground. Speculation though. You can draw your own conclusions.

I decided to make this to celebrate Guy Fawkes night, and after much raving from colleagues throughout the office, I knew it would be a hit even before attempting it. I found some recipes to get a general idea of what it includes, and went off to make my own version of it with what I had laying around. And here we are.

The ingredients:
6 Sausages, we used spicy ones
6 Strips of bacon
2 regular white onions, diced
3 beef bullion cubes, mixed with about a cup(+/-) of boiling water(or beef stock)
Whole wheat flour; self raising(baking soda/powder and salt added)
Mustard or Soy Sauce
Milk
2-3 eggs
Garlic glove, pressed
A few teaspoons of butter or oil.

Boil or cook the sausage until close to finished, but not quite. Remove and wrap each sausage with one slice of bacon and place on a tray. Scatter half of the onion on top and pop in the oven to cook until very lightly browned. Don’t worry if they aren’t completely finished, as they will cook more in the dish itself.IMG_4239

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For the batter, I put the eggs in a bowl and added a good bit of flour, maybe 250g or 2 cups, give or take. As I think I mentioned before, I don’t use measuring cups. Extra dishes to clean and laziness leave me approximating each time instead. 150-200 or so ml of milk, the pressed garlic clove, and mix it all together. I’d suggest adding the milk slowly to get the consistency right and to make sure you don’t add too much. In the end, the mix was similar to the consistency of brownie batter.

I made less batter than I should have, intentionally, knowing that Joe was leaving and we didn’t want to have much, if any, leftovers. If you want to do it properly, I would suggest doubling what I used for the flour, egg and milk. We put that in the oven to begin cooking, and after about 5 minutes, took it out and added the sausages and onion to it. That went back in the oven, and while it cooked we made the onion gravy.

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For the gravy, saut√© the diced onion you have left with the butter until brown, add the beef stock, a tablespoon(again, +/- to taste) of mustard or soy sauce, a bit of flour to thicken, and stir until a nice gravy mix is had. Take the dish out of the oven once brown and a stick comes out clean from the middle. Serve onto plates, pour some gravy on top, and you’re done!
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Total time? Probably 15 minutes for us. Total cost? Ridiculously cheap. Maybe £2 per serving? And given the reduced batter, ours served about 4, or about 1.25 Joes, even though we used 6 sausages.IMG_4257

This was one of the easiest and cheapest recipes we’ve tried so far. Next time, I plan on either doubling the batch or using a smaller pan so the batter properly overflows like it’s meant to. Maybe I’ll make that when I make my way across the pond. All our recipes seem to come here, it’s about time we reciprocate!

Photos on the Bus

We’re an exciting pair, as I’m sure you all are already aware of. The booze, parties, clubbing…we do it all on a regular basis. NOT.

We may not be your typical young, hipster, party-loving kids but we still know how to have fun! It’s just, our idea of fun is a little bit different. Nothing wrong with that, right?

This morning was a lazy and relaxed Saturday morning, filled with making breakfast and laying around. As
afternoon approached, we decided to part ways for a bit, as I headed to a cafe to get some things done and Joe headed to the Imperial War Museum that is FINALLY open again! More on that one later. The plan? Meet up afterwards for dinner.

And that we did. Meeting at the museum, we walked over to Vauxhall Station to go to Dirty Burger, a well known London establishment that is meant to have some of the best burgers in town according to TimeOut London. That has yet to be seen or tasted though.

Dirty Burger in Vauxhall is a tiny joint with seating for 15-20, conveniently located under one of the station arches and meant mainly for the stations’ numerous daily travellers. Arriving around 19:00 on a Saturday evening, the place was quiet except for a few couples enjoying a quick bite before moving on their way. It’s an order-at-the-counter-and-wait-for-your-number kind of place, but the wait is next to nothing. It took an excruciating 2 minutes to have our number called out. Yes, you read that right. They’re fast. Almost Jimmy John’s fast(for you Yanks who understand that reference, for others- YouTube it).

That kind of speed makes me wonder if they keep a backlog of burgers like McDonalds does, heating them up as they need. But regardless, the burger was good. Having recently been to Advisory which is also on the TimeOut website, Dirty Burger has a lot of competition and doesn’t quite compare. They win on speed, but not on taste or quality. Offering much the same menu as Advisory, there’s a bit of differentiation lacking here.

IMG_4083Back to the fun part though. “Wait, the food wasn’t the fun part??” you ask. Well, yes it was. But the even better bit was the 45 minute bus ride home that included taking a photo shoot and bad jokes, of which probably aren’t rated appropriately for this site.

So in retort we ask: Who needs all-night parties and clubbing to have a fun Saturday night?

Tortilla Pizza

Did you know…(Yes, normally you should be getting worried right about now) that you can make great pizza with a tortilla instead of a full crust? I know, sounds like a typical Uni-days recipe hack, and oh how I wish I had known about this back then! But then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t. I might have never graduated and would still be there, making tortilla pizzas all day instead of studying and going to class. Phew! Dodged a close one there.

It’s true though, and it’s very similar to the type of pizza you get in Italy too. Appropriate timing, given we just got back from there. We had a few tortillas left over from the other night and decided to give it a go Friday after work. Turned out pretty well too!

After work, I stopped and grabbed a few items from the shop and headed home. With the weather getting cooler and winter approaching fast, I even got lucky with a basil plant that was on offer to clear. Full ingredient list was short and sweet:

Tortillas
Pasta sauce
Chopped basil leaves
Pepperoni slices
Cooked ground beef
Jalape√Īos
Mozzarella cheese

And I left out quantities for a reason. With this kind of recipe, anything can be increased, decreased, doubled, halved, etc etc. We only had 2 tortillas left to use up so ours was a small batch.

Cook the beef, chop the basil leaves, grate the cheese, layer it up, and cook. Oh, and enjoy!

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Halloween Hats

I love the holidays. Not the weather, but the holiday spirit and decorations and most of all…the baking! There are so many ideas and recipes out there, and not nearly enough time, money, or hungry friends and relatives to try them all. Most of you who know me, know that I love trying new things and experimenting with my recipes, so when I came across a photo of witch hat cookies, I knew I had to give it a shot. And this time around I had help!

And in the spirit of holiday baking and experimenting, this time around I’m just going to give the ingredients and a jist of how I did it, and let you all take it from there! I’m sure ya’ll get sick of my play-by-play sometimes anyway.

My ingredients:
Cupcake/Sponge Cake Mix of your choice
Orange Food Colouring
21 Carousel Ice Cream Cones
1Lg/2Sm Package(s) Chocolate Digestives/Biscuits/Cookies
300g Melting Chocolate
Vanilla Frosting
Black and Red Writing Gel

To start, make your batter. I chose to colour mine orange in light of the upcoming Halloween holiday. You could change it up and put brownie mix or pancake batter in the cones instead too. {TIP: given the style of cones this recipe calls for, make sure you think ahead about HOW you plan on baking the batter in them. We didn’t really consider that until it was time to pour it in and OOPS! Thankfully I’m dating a creative genius who came up with putting the cones in the oven rack. Worked like a charm!}

Pour the batter in the cones and bake until finished. Make sure you don’t fill them up much at all. They’ll expand, and you don’t want the batter above the top or else they won’t sit flat on the biscuit when you put them together.

Melt the chocolate, and once the cones are cool, pour over the outside of them. We had a small bit leftover, which I used to coat the other side of the biscuits.

As the chocolate cooled and dried, I added orange food colouring to the frosting and got ready to assemble.

Time to put the pieces together! Since the batter didn’t make the bottom of the cones flat, I didn’t frost the entire end. Instead, I piped frosting around the edge of the cone and placed them on top of the chocolate side of the biscuit. I then added a bit more frosting around the edge to seal it and make them look like one piece.

To top them off, a bit of writing icing to put a buckle on the orange frosting “belt” and the hats are finished!

Easy, right?

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Kitchen Fires

Dinner is meant to be burnt sometimes…right? Kitchens are meant to be set on fire sometimes too, correct? Uhhhh….no.

Another night in the eventful cooking lives of ThoseDamnAmericans. What began as an innocent evening of dinner, a bit of work, and tv turned into a night of smoke detectors going off and airing out the flat. Oops.

After some drinks and spending some time at Starbucks after work, we came home to make dinner and relax a bit. I popped some chili hotdogs, broccoli, and cut up tortillas in the oven to bake, and carried on cleaning and getting things situated. Having been on low heat and that much in there, we knew it would take a while to bake. I caught the hot dogs and broccoli in perfect time, but the tortilla chips weren’t even close to being done. So I quickly popped the other food onto a plate and turned around to find the oven smoking. All of 60 seconds had passed in that time.

I opened the oven to see what was going on, and POOF! The room filled with smoke and the tortillas ignited, quickly to be engulfed in flames. Cue both smoke detectors to go off. I meant to do that….

The remainder of the evening was spent airing out the kitchen and oven, and even retrying some tortilla chips, which I kept a very, very close eye on this time. Happy to report that there were no tortilla casualties this time around!

This morning was a rude reminder of the evening before, walking into the kitchen and smelling the remains of the smoke that inhabited it the evening prior. Ah well, after this many years of cooking and baking, I was due a kitchen fire. And now I can cross it off the cooking bucket list.

Bacon Pancakes

This one is for all of you breakfast lovers out there. We’ve combined two favourites of the breakfast world; bacon and pancakes. And it’s incredibly easy.

As many of you already know, I do not give out my secret pancake recipe. I will, however, give you some pretty close alternatives that are tried and true. A very basic recipe that I like is from Martha Stewart, and can be tweaked as preferred:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1 large egg

As mentioned in previous posts, American-style bacon is not common here in the UK. “Bacon” here is what we would consider Canadian bacon in the US. It isn’t impossible to find though. You just have to look for the term “streaky” bacon here, and that means it’s thin cut, both in width and thickness. I have found the best variety can be found at ASDA, but Sainsburys and Tesco both offer it as well.

 

Combining the two was a simple task. Due to the quick cooking time of pancakes and the greasy nature of bacon, it needs to be cooked and drained first and preferably dried off on paper towel as well.

 

Once this is complete, the bacon needs to be crumbled into small pieces. For our batch of 5 large, fluffy pancakes I used about 4 medium sized strips of bacon. There are two ways you can go from here. first up- you can pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the crumbles on top, which is how I did it the first time. It’s similar to how to make chocolate chip pancakes, since the chips nearly always float to the bottom otherwise. The second way would be to stir the crumbles into the pancake mix, and just pour it into the pan.

After having tried it the first way I will probably choose the other way next time, but the option is yours. The bacon is light enough that it should stay suspended in the mix whilst you cook, but worst case scenario you could always keep mixing it along the way.

That’s it! Seriously, it’s that easy. Let the pancakes cook as usual and serve with butter and maple syrup, Nutella, peanut butter, jam, or whatever else you want. Delicious!

Mmm beefy

Beef lovers, get ready! I have two new recipes for you that we threw together this past week. Born out of necessity and the odd mix ingredients in the fridge, we concocted a sort of beef stir-fry, as well as a meatloaf type dish, for you all to try out. And when I say “sort or” and “type”, I truly do mean that. Neither one really qualifies for the given name, but I couldn’t come up with anything better to call them. Suggestions anyone?

For the stir fry dish, the idea was really quite simple. Whats in the refrigerator, goes remotely well together, and can be saut√©ed in a pan? Almost sounds like a trivia question for Jeopardy, doesn’t it? I realised that the likelihood of making it to the store that day was slim to none and that we had all these random odds and ends that needed to be used before they went bad. So I did what any aspiring cook might attempt at some point in their life. Throw a bunch of random stuff in a pan with a good bit of seasoning to mask any bad flavours and hope for the best. Boy, I got lucky. Either that or my guy like anything that has beef or steak in it, regardless. Well, I guess either way I got lucky.

 

Beef Saute

Beef Saute

 

The second recipe was a bit more thought out. That said, don’t give too much credit. It was THAT well thought out!

The recent focus in our household has been on increasing protein, but the same meat dishes can get tiring after a while. So I decided to try something new and buy beans to mix things up. To make it easier for the first attempt, I bought pre-cooked black eyed beans that could be thrown straight into a cold salad or cooked into a dish without the prep hassle that usually accompanies bean dishes. Black eyed beans are also known to be one of the higher-protein bean options, which goes well with our diet.

Black Eyed Beans

Black Eyed Beans

There were a few things leftover from the last recipe that I wanted to use up, along with a large amount of mince beef in the freezer which became my base for the recipe. Even better, there was an offer on at the shop for chilli con carne sauce which I added to the beef. Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the vegetable additions I used up the leftover courgette and red onion, then added some minced garlic cloves, parsley and chilli powder for flavouring. Does it get much better than that? We added the beans, mixed it all together by hand(yes, literally with our bare hands) and put it in a dish to bake on low heat for nearly 45 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resulting dish was something like a meatloaf. Melt-in-your-mouth, break-apart meat with some soft vegetables in the mix. Each serving was placed in a bowl with a bit of shredded cheese added on top and put in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt. The final product was delicious goodness.


 

 

 

 

 

 

There are several ways you can change this recipe to suit your tastes. Try it out and let us know how you fare!

Taco Salad

There are a few fast food restaurants that I know used to be go-to places for Joe. One of those was McDonalds, one of the symbols of America. I also know how much Joe loves Mexican food. Whilst it was never a big deal for me there were always a few things I loved from there growing up, including the taco salad. Perfect mixture of McDonalds and Mexican, right?

I decided to try and recreate this masterpiece myself in a way that was healthier but just as delicious as the original.

The ingredients were simple for this recipe:

Mince Beef or Turkey(your choice; I used Turkey)
Green & Red pepper, diced
Lettuce
Red Onion
Jalapenos
Cheese of your choice(I used Cheddar)
Kebab Sauce/Salsa
Garlic Cloves
Chilli Powder
Cayenne Powder
Tortillas

To make it even more cultural, additional ingredients can be added such as corn or avocado, however I decided to skip those this time.

For the salad bowl, I decided to use the tortilla which I placed in a Pyrex bowl and baked for approximately 10 minutes, until hardened. I took another one of the tortillas and cut it into small strips, sprayed it with cooking spray and added salt. These strips also went in the oven to make tortilla strips for the top of the salad. Whilst those baked, I readied the other ingredients, chopping and dicing the vegetables and cooking the meat.

Once the meat was about halfway done, I drained the fat and added the chilli powder, cayenne powder and minced garlic. Once that was mixed together well, I added the onion, diced peppers, and jalapeno. At the end, I added the Kebab sauce. In place of the Kebab sauce, you could use marinara, salsa, enchilada, or any other type of red sauce. I chose the Kebab sauce for two reasons. 1) That’s what I had on hand, and 2) it’s hot & spicy, which is a requirement in our household.

By now, the tortilla was finished and relatively cooled off, so construction of the salad could begin. At the bottom of the tortilla I placed some chopped lettuce to form the bed of the salad. Piled on top of that went the meat mixture. Some toppings that I left off were sour cream and tomato, but they would certainly go well with this recipe if you were so inclined to try.

At the very end came the cheese. Yummy, gooey goodness. Throw some cheese on top, pop it in the microwave or oven for a minute just to melt the top, and tada!! Mexican salad at your hands.

Enjoy! And if you try any variations, be sure to let me know how it goes! I may just try some of your ideas out myself.

Muff-Cakes

Time for a *new* recipe idea! No surprise there though. I love experimenting with new ideas when it comes to cooking and baking. This time, however, it was more out of necessity than anything.

Flats here often come furnished, which includes kitchen utensils, pots, pans, etc, and ours in one of those. Included in that bunch is one frying pan, which makes it difficult if you want to make bacon AND pancakes at the same time. Sure, you could make bacon in the oven, but it just isn’t the same thing. Any bacon lovers are sure to agree. So that meant there was only one option. Find another way to cook the pancakes.

Looking through our kitchenware, there weren’t a whole lot of options, but there was a muffin tin. Perfect! Nobody wants to put pancake batter in a large cake pan, and you can’t very easily make them on a cookie sheet, but a muffin tin keeps the batter in, and cooks rather quickly. Perfect!

So I buttered the tin, poured in the batter, and threw them in the oven. Total experiment.

Nearly ready

Now, my pancakes are known for being extremely thick and fluffy, meaning that they rise a lot. This can be an issue when cooking in a small pan. Thankfully, the muff-cakes(as I will now refer to them) came out perfect, aside from the funky raised centre. Rather than raising equally on top, they had little peaks, much like you would expect when whipping eggs for a meringue. But fear not, they still taste the same!

Muffin Tin Pancakes

Experiment = success. The bacon and muff-cakes finished around the same time, and breakfast was a success! Now all I need to do is find a way to get the syrup in the middle of the muff-cakes whilst they bake and life will be perfect!

Done!

Fishy! Tuna Salad

Another healthy recipe for all of you aspiring cooks out there! Tuna Salad anyone? Known to be a very fat-laden food, we wanted to find a way to still enjoy it without the extra calories. Where to begin, you ask?

I began with a base recipe that went a little something like this:

4- 5 ounce cans tuna in oil
200g+/- Mayonnaise
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
splash of lemon juice

Then I determined what the highest calorie ingredients in the recipe were.

200g+/- cup Mayonnaise
4- 5 ounce cans tuna in oil

Easiest way to make this recipe healthy? Replace these ingredients with healthier alternatives. Sounds simple, right?

IMG_3240Hah! You expected me to say “Wrong!” didn’t you? It really is that easy!

 

The easiest swap was replacing the tuna in oil(or brine) for tuna in water, reducing the calories in this recipe by about 330. Now, I know this is a controversial topic with a nearing-religious following, so you can decide for yourself on this one. Mayonnaise lovers refuse to use IMG_3241anything but the real thing. Dieters refuse to use anything other than the fat-free. For this recipe, I chose to use the Asda “lighter” option, which has a fraction of the calories and fat, but still has a good flavour, which impressed me. 707cal/100g vs 109cal/100g. WOW.


I know that calories aren’t everything and that it doesn’t always mean healthier, but the reduction in the fat content alone is enough to sway my decision on this one. And the flavour just sealed the deal. IMG_3242I tried a few variations with spices and flavours too, which turned out great. Try a few out for yourself and let us know how it turns out!

IMG_3244

Guacamole!

On our most recent trip to ASDA (the UK version of Walmart; they even have the Rollback signs!) they had guacamole kits on offer. And being that avocado, done correctly, is very healthy for you, we decided to try it out.

The kit came with nearly everything necessary to make the dip, which was really convenient. To start, we Avocadocut up the avocado and removed the pit. Since everything was done by hand I removed the peel first and then cut it into pieces before mashing it, just to make the mashing part easier. I left that in Joe’s hands, and moved on to slicing the remaining red chilli pepper, onion, tomato, and coriander.

 

Once all of that was complete, I added the sliced, diced, and chopped veggies to the guacamole, and mixed it all together. To finish, we added some freshly squeezed lime juice, partly for flavour and party to keep the guacamole from turning brown.Red Chilli Pepper

 

We have been making a concerted effort to stay away from buying chips(or crisps as they’re referred to here) and so we needed to make something to have the guacamole with. Thankfully there were a few tortillas leftover from some burrito wraps we had made a night or two prior. Perfect for making your own healthy chips.

With a pizza cutter, I took the tortillas and sliced them into bite sized bits, laid them on a cookie sheet, and Limesput them in the oven on low heat so dehydrate them and make them crispy. To make them closer to store-bought chips but still healthy, we added some salt but forewent the butter. Result?

Perfect!

Guacamole! Nearly Ready

Cafe Crêperie

I love re-discovering little hidden gems in a city this big. Saturday morning, Joe finally got to claim his massage that we had purchased so many weeks(I think we’re into months now) ago. Rather than walk around for an hour, I decided to stay home and meet him at Oxford Circus when he was done. Leaving a bit later than expected due to rain, I knew I would arrive past when he was due to be finished with his massage and I hoped that I would be able to find him in the hoards of people that pack the shopping district of London on the weekends. It was my lucky day! As I exit the station, out of one of their many exits mind you, there he is! Good timing. And placement.

Lunch time. Where to go when you’re on such a touristy street? Somewhere not touristy.

Time to escape.

I remember having gone to this cute creperie located down this tiny alleyway off of Oxford Circus nearing two years prior, and decided to try and find it. I couldn’t remember a thing about where it was, and it was pre-determined that we would just walk until we found something, but keep our eyes open for this narrow opening hidden on the street.

Lo and behold, we found it! A few steps from Selfridges was this tiny gap between two stores which lead back to a quaint square with several small shops and eateries that I instantly recognised. We looked at the Creperie menu and a few others, but as I expected, the crepe place won with it’s Mexican-inspired option. A few minutes later we had our table outside under the awning.

Cafe Seating

Cafe Seating

Whilst waiting for the food to arrive, we sipped our drinks and noted how even though we were in central London, a place that we now called home, it felt as though we were on holiday in some unknown place. This square certainly gives off that type of vibe. Far enough from the noise and bustle of Oxford Street, yet close enough to allow plenty of people watching, it’s the perfect place to get away for an hour for a good meal.

The meal of choice was a Crepe of spanish descent, with beef, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and more. Finally! A slice of our coveted Mexican-style food in London. Oh, how you’ve been missed! It even came with a little condiment set which held the salsa, ketchup, and sour cream.

Condiments

Condiments

The whole cafe is quite open, with the inside seating pouring over to the outside tables as though it’s one room. Inside, you can see the crepes continuously being made. The cooks have the process down so well that they don’t even need to watch what they’re doing, carrying on conversations with guests whilst they pour, flip, repeat.

Spanish Crepe

Spanish Crepe

Crepes; The French Pancake

Crepes and I have a love-hate relationship. Love to eat them, hate to make them. I’ve never been able to make them thin enough without ripping them. And when they don’t rip, they’re too thick to be considered crepes. Lose-lose situation. However I decided to try one more time for the heck of it. And it worked! The batter for crepes is very similar to that of pancakes, although much thinner. The basic recipe has flour, eggs, milk and butter. Simple, right? I add a few secret ingredients to mine, and you can experiment with yours too. Some common additions include various extracts, sweeteners(honey, sugar, etc), and other flavours. My full recipe? You wish.

The base recipe, taken from Nigella Lawson

  • 30¬†grams¬†unsalted butter¬†melted (plus more for frying)
  • 150¬†grams¬†plain flour
  • 325¬†ml¬†milk
  • 1¬†large¬†egg

I found a small frying pan and started after the perfect crepes. Sadly, perfection was nowhere to be found. But they came close.

Batter

Batter

Making the Crepes

Making the Crepes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a thin layer of batter in the pan, spread about, and you’re practically there. I waited until the top looked drier, much like you would with pancakes, then flipped them over. Once brown on both sides, I popped them on a plate and added the filling, which is next up.

For the filling, I took some of the fruit from the festivities the night before(Retirement party) along with some fresh berries, added some cornstarch and cooked it down.

 

Pre-Cooked Fruit

Fruit

Pre-Cooked Fruit

Pre-Cooked Fruit

Fruit Compote

Fruit Compote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put that in the middle of the crepe, roll it up, and you’re done!

We also had some homemade lemon yogurt in the refrigerator, which I added some pineapple to, and to top it off I used up the remaining bacon that needed to be cooked.

Voila! Breakfast!

IMG_2891

Leftovers: The Crepe Edition

I made crepes for my parents the other day as an experiment because I have never really been able to get crepes down. They always stick, end up too thick, or just don’t turn out right but this time they seemed nearly perfect. Although there ended up being a different problem; there were too many left over! Extra crepes. What to do with them? Here’s an option.

I decided to use up as much stuff as I could find in the fridge the other night, including the leftover crepes. We had food from the City retirement party as well as from bar-b-queuing several times during the week, but none of it was enough for one full meal for anyone. There were leftover roasted vegetables, bacon from the crepe breakfast, more spinach & lettuce than we knew what to do with from the garden, and of course the crepes.

So I did a bit of googling to figure out what most people do with crepes when it comes to dinner and found all sorts of recipes with chicken, spinach, and mushrooms. We had one of three. Not bad, but certainly not ideal. And unusual! There’s almost always chicken in their house, and anyone who knows me knows that where I am, mushrooms can ALWAYS be found. But not this time. Time to do what I do best and improvise!

What I had on hand:
Bacon
Leftover Grilled Veg consisting of Zucchini, Bell Peppers, and Onion
Spinach
Milk
Flour
Mozzarella Cheese

The Base

The Base

Veggies

Veggies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To begin, I cooked down the fresh spinach from the garden, whilst cooking the bacon. Once the spinach was done, I added in the leftover veg and sauteed it until warm and browned. By now the bacon was done and the Bechamel sauce could be started. As the veg warmed up, we reused the bacon pan to keep the flavour and put together some flour, butter, and milk. Once simmered down to a sauce, the mozzarella cheese was added and cooked until completely melted.

Once each part was finished, they were all combined into one large pan.

Mixed thoroughly, the sauce mixture was put onto the crepes and rolled up. It wasn’t the most glamorous but boy, did it taste delicious!

 

 

The Ultimate Diet-Killing Brownies

As most of you know, I love baking. And being home meant I had the best kitchen at my disposal and I wasn’t about to leave without making the most of it! We decided to make dessert, but had no idea what to make. In the middle of a few things, I left finding ideas and recipes up to Joe. The end result? Brownies!

But in my house, there’s no such thing as following recipes. We like to experiment; see whats in the cupboards and throw it all together. Haven’t had one bad turnout yet. (*knock on wood*) So to start, for this recipe we decided to go with dark chocolate instead of regular cocoa.

Chocolate Isn't Ready Yet

Chocolate Isn’t Ready Yet

After melting the butter and cocoa together, we added the egg, mixed it together, and then added the remaining ingredients.

The cocoa base

The cocoa base

Mmmmm, sugar!

Mmmmm, sugar!

Then came the fun part. All the extra yummy goodies to add. For this adventure, we decided to add in dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chips

We added nearly all of them to the batter, but kept a bit out for the top to garnish.

Garnish

Garnish with Walnuts

Garnish

Garnish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked in the oven at 350F for about 15-20 minutes, and voila! The end result:

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

 

For the original recipe, check out http://www.inspiredtaste.net/24412/cocoa-brownies-recipe/

Cinco de Mayo

To celebrate the recent Cinco de Mayo holiday, which is unsurprisingly not really celebrated here in the UK but also happens to be a Bank Holiday, we decided to go to South Bank’s Campo Viejo Streets of Spain festival. Representing all things Spanish, there were food stalls with dishes from Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and more, as well as vendors with goods from the same variety of places. 

Chilies Galore!

Chilies Galore!

Even Boxed Chilies!

Even Boxed Chilies!

Sweets!

Sweets!

To take it all in and keep from making any hasty food choices (it all looked so good!), we decided to walk the entire riverfront of stalls first. There were all sorts of different foods from little finger foods, to full dishes, sauces to deserts, and the chilies! Oh, the chilies! They were all over. Mild, hot, and in-between., this was any chili-lovers heaven. I have never seen so many chili sauces in my life, either. 

As for small and large plates, the food choices were all over the place. Meatballs, hog roasts, wood-burning ovens cooking pizza, pork kabanos, sausages, vats of sautés and the list goes on. The choice of the day after looking through all of the stalls was meatballs with sautéed vegetables and a chicken curry-like dish, minus the curry.

Lunch; Meatballs and Rice

Lunch; Meatballs and Rice

To top things off was desert. Ice cream, churros, chocolate… choices, choices. The stall that stood out the most to me had the largest and widest variety of chocolates and fudges that I have ever seen in one place before. And I’ve seen some pretty big chocolate shops! The final decision ended up being gelato, merely because of the number of times the line for churros wound around the plaza. Maybe next time.

On-the-bone meat

On-the-bone meat

Wood burning pizza oven

Wood burning pizza oven

Alcohol

Alcohol, of course

Canned goodies

Canned goodies

Meat Assortment

Meat Assortment

SAUSAGE!

SAUSAGE!

Produce everywhere

Produce everywhere

Additional dessert, anyone?

Additional dessert, anyone?

Word of advice for those of you who missed this event: put it on your calendar now for next year so you don’t forget. This is one festival not to be missed!

Banana Pancakes

Everyone knows I love to cook and bake, and breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day to come up with recipes for. I also hate calories. You know, those pesky little things that add up too quickly and turn into stuffing for your clothes? Yeah, those. So when I heard about pancakes make from egg whites and bananas, I was pretty excited. Puts a whole new meaning to Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes song., doesn’t it. A fraction of the calories for the same flavour? Yes, please! The other day we had a hankering for some pancakes, and remembering this recipe, I decided to try them out. And the results were…(*Drumroll please*)

To start, there’s very, very little that goes into these things. Egg, or in our case egg whites, mashed banana, some cinnamon and a bit of vanilla extract. In reality, you only need the first two, but I like to add the others for some extra flavour, and they can be changed to whatever you want! A little maple extract maybe? The possibilities are endless.

The Eggs

The Eggs

I started with two bowls, one for whisking the eggs and the other for mashing the banana. In my kitchen, there’s no such thing as measuring cups as the perfect recipe is different for everyone. I used about 3 egg whites and 3-4 medium bananas for this one, although depending on the number of pancakes you need and whether you use whole eggs or only whites will play a big role in the ratio between the two. Once I had the egg whites whisked and the banana mashed, I added a cap-ful of vanilla to the eggs and a good 3-4 strong dashes of cinnamon to the bananas, and mixed again. Then married the two together. Looking back, I should have used the blender. But hey, next time around, right? 

The Batter

The Batter

The mix is pretty watery in comparison to regular pancake mix so be forewarned! A few ways around this are to use under-ripe bananas, add some flour, or refrigerate/chill in the freezer before cooking. You don’t want to freeze the mix, but strongly chilled will make it closer to a frosty-esque consistency that’s easier to stick in on spot on the pan. For this set, I did nothing to see how they turned out and it all cooked fine. After putting the mix in the pan, it needs to sit a bit longer than proper pancakes to make sure the egg is cooked all the way through. The first batch took around 8 or 9 minutes, and the next few took even less since the pan was already warmed up. 

Almost Done!

Almost Done!

Careful when flipping these things too. It might be worth cooking at a slightly lower temp and putting a cover over them, as they don’t cook quite as evenly through, and flipping them also means dealing with quite a watery surface. The lid would keep the heat in and cook the top a bit more, making those flips easier. Hindsight is 20/20. The first one was a bit…crunchy on the bottom, shall we say? But otherwise, they all turned out great! We were both very impressed with how easy they were to cook and flip, even with the thin batter.

Finished Product

Finished Product

Oh, and did I mention how DELICIOUS they are?? Part of the could just be the delicious lack of calories, but I doubt that. These pancakes had a slightly different consistency from regular pancakes, but came so close it was scary. Especially given how different the ingredients are. I dare you to try them.

Yumm!

Yumm!

The Bridge House

The Bridge House Menu

The Bridge House Menu

There are hidden gems all over London, and one of them is The Bridge House in Little Venice. A quaint little restaurant and pub right off of the canal, The Bridge House offers a small selection of sandwiches at lunchtime, expanding the offerings to a full seasonal menu for dinner. In addition, they have special Saturday Brunch and Sunday menus, and for those looking to find a special treat, a lengthy pudding menu is available.

Burger

Burger

 

 

 

Right around the corner from the Canal Cafe Theatre(http://www.canalcafetheatre.com/), The Bridge House is also a great place to go pre- or post-theatre, if your fancy strikes. And you can always take a stroll along the canal to burn off all those delicacies calories.

The real treasure at the House though is their selection of drinks¬†and “Cask Marque-accredited” ales. Don’t get me wrong, their¬†beer selection is great, but don’t forget to try some of their great cocktails too; from Bloody Marys to nurse a Sunday hangover to homemade mulled wine and sodas, there’s something for all ages!

Restaurant

Restaurant

Pulled Pork on the Burger

Pulled Pork on the Burger

The Best Steak in Town

Full Goodmans Meal

Full Goodmans Meal


My favorite food is steak. My favorite drink is Whiskey. Being from the United States, I believe that I am born with a natural ability to assess the true quality, taste, value, etc of a hunk of meat specifically butchered for my culinary enjoyment. Being 25% Irish makes me convince myself that I have an innate ability to seek out the best Whiskeys. However, the UK has proved to be a different world altogether for steak and Whiskey. In terms of steak, the names of the cuts are sometimes different and the selection is not typically as wide ranging it would seem. Whiskey, though choices are abundant…Jack Daniels seems to be considered top shelf (quite an upgrade for the Tennessee Bourbon). Bri and I went to Goodman Steakhouse on Canary Wharf for a celebratory dinner. Goodman had a remarkable selection and very well trained staff. They provided a full listing of all cuts available, both US and UK bread meat, including specifics around the differences for each. I was truly impressed. I went with the 1200 Gram bone in ribeye. This, my friends, was one hefty piece of meat. Though incredibly thick, it was prepared perfectly medium rare. It took me a while to finish, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must admit though, that it was rather pricey at £90. I loved the quality, the taste, the size…but good lord that was an expensive dinner. The Whiskey selection was respectable and manageable. Unlike other places that have 300+ types of whiskey, Goodman provided a wide enough array without being overwhelming. Between the Talisker,Red Breast, and Highland Park whiskey and scotch buffet…Red Breast best complimented the meal in my view.

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Finished

Finished