Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What a Year!

I've been absent for some time! It feels excellent to be back but looking over the pictures there's a lot to share from the past year and a bit. Re-design and new posts coming right up...!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

London Retrospective: Restaurant Reviews- Gordon Ramsay's The Narrow

Notice the patriotic bunting!
On our last day in London (this was back in May) we decided to book in for lunch at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. We didn't want anything super formal so we opted to head to East London and eat at one of Ramsay's pubs. We booked because we weren't sure what to expect. After a thirty minute journey on the underground and DLR we arrived just in time to avoid a torrential downpour. The pub was located on the Thames in what seemed to be a newer residential area. The decor was what you would expect of a beach house in New England, quaint, modern, and comfortable. Comfortable overstuffed chairs, board games, and a glassed in conservatory (which I'm sure is opened up when the weather is nice) made me wish we had pubs like it in Glasgow. 
We were seated in the conservatory next to a  large party of rather loud women. it seemed a bit counterproductive since we had booked. Our table would have been lovely otherwise but with everyone being a bit drunk and generally boisterous, it was hard to enjoy the quiet ambiance. 
We decided to order two courses from the set menu and enjoy some of the lovely beers and ciders. On a side note they have a really good selection of beer, wine and spirits. There are loads of organic options and both local and international selections (that is in addition to the usual suspects). We both ended up with the same main, the Beer-battered hake with hand-cut chips and mushy peas. It was fabulous. The fish was perfectly moist and flaky. The chips were the perfectly crisp while still retaining the softness needed to keep them from being too crunchy. Even the mushy peas (which I had prepared to leave behind since I normally despise them) were lovely flavour-infused versions of their former selves. And even if you don't enjoy tartare sauce, try it! This one was excellent and very nearly as good as the homemade remoulade I enjoyed on my Sylt holiday.
Advancing onto dessert, the boy chose the Bread and butter pudding with vanilla custard, rum and raisin ice cream while I ordered the Passion fruit posset with coconut and white chocolate cookie. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect having never had a posset before. I wasn't disappointed. The posset was divine, creamy and smooth with the perfect hint of passion fruit. The cookie was a bit dry but also good. The boy really enjoyed his dessert. Having tried it, I found it too sweet, but he assured me it was the best version of bread and butter pudding that he had had. 
So, if you venture to Limehouse to eat here the food is definitely worth it. It is more casual then I expected but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The service was OK. They were attentive enough, but didn't seem overly so (I was given a glass with something in it and she seemed not very apologetic). That is not to say that everyone we encountered was the same. The hostess appeared to be very much in control and very motivated to make sure that everyone had a good experience. 
Overall I would certainly go again. At the weekend right now they are doing a BBQ which seems like the perfect way to enjoy a BBQ in the middle of the city. See you there?

Organic HoneyDew Beer and Perronelle's Blush Cider

Beer-battered Hake hand-cut chips and mushy peas

Passion fruit posset with coconut and white chocolate cookie

Set Lunch: Two for 18 GBP, Three for 22 GBP

  • The Narrow
  • 44 Narrow Street 
  • London E14 8DP
  • 020 7592 7950

    DLR: Limehouse

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

First Cooking, Next DIY?

So it has been a while. Somehow between the madness of exams and the exhilaration of graduation I kept documenting things to blog but then failed to blog them. I'm in the process of a blog redesign but until that happens I've not-so sneakily used last summer's design as a holdover. So what have I been doing exactly? I started and finished my first sewing project, DIY-ed the sewing box/table in one night, went to London, went to France, photographed loads of food, and finished university. Pretty crazy stuff!
So about that sewing box/table...
In my last entry I talked about (and photographed) old furniture that I found around Glasgow. There was a small sewing table. At first I wanted to refinish and reupholster it. While not impossible (as DIY King and Queen YHL have shown) it seemed like a lot of work (and money) for a university student.
After sending pictures of the box/table to my dad he suggested taking apart the fabric parts to ascertain how they did it. Despite my desire to redo the whole thing (refinish and reupholster it that is) I realised that he was right about it possibly being more trouble that it was worth since its only purpose just now is to hold sewing things. I figure that I can always refinish it later, you know like when I have a job and stuff.
I began ripping the fabric out. It was glued and stapled and actually tougher to remove than I thought. I ended up using a metal spatula to help remove some of the excess glue. The bottom of the box actually had horsehair or something that looked an awful lot like it underneath the velour. Removing it required opening a window as it was also pretty dusty. Finally I had everything ripped out. I drew a plan and headed to the fabric store leaving the table/box looking like this:

In the meantime I continued to search the fabric store for a solution that was durable and budget-friendly. Velvet and velour were immediately crossed off the list as the colours weren't great and it was a lot more than I wanted to spend. I ended up settling on some drapery fabric that was reduced to something like 6 GBP a meter (from 24 GBP!) and a satin that ended up costing slightly more since it wasn't as wide as the drapery fabric. I also picked up some fabric glue (the store recommended Gütermann fabric adhesive which despite its toxic smell worked fantastically) and some drapery trim. Final cost, approximately 37 GBP. Not bad for a piece of free furniture. In the end using drapery fabric was a total win since it was so wide that I only needed one meter of it instead of three!
Putting it together was fairly straightforward. I made the bottom cushion first with a piece of cardboard as the base. In between I put cotton wadding before gluing the edges of the fabric to the cardboard. The bottom of the drawer was the same process minus the wadding (I also ironed the fabric to get a smoother result. This proved useful in the next step). the sides were a bit trickier as they required measuring the fabric, folding it, ironing it, and then gluing it directly to the wood in a straight line. Since it was meant to be one piece of fabric gluing became a bit more difficult. I chose not to pleat the satin in the top (didn't seem necessary) and nearly had a heart attack when I started running out of fabric glue. Thankfully I managed to make it last for gluing on the trim. The top pincushion of the box was easy enough. I simply followed shape/pattern of the old pincushion. I managed to use the silver clips off the old piece as well. Not sure I will end up using the pincushion but I definitely didn't want to leave it away since it was obvious that something was missing. 
Four hours after I started I finished the project. I'm really happy with the results. Next project? Some sort of pincushion. I'm hoping Pinterest will guide me...
And now for the reveal...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Why it's Sometimes Better to Wait for Garbage Day...

Remember when I professed a weakness for nesting and home goods (check out the entry here)? I showed you my tea set and other vintage finds and spoke of strolling through charity shops looking for bargains. As much as vintage wardrobes with labeled compartments and art deco sideboards seemed a fantastical bargain, they stayed just that, a fantasy. 
Over a year ago I moved into a flat double the size of my parent's in France. Suddenly, I had loads of space. I didn't do anything about it, mostly because I was panicking about not being able to find a flatmate and having to pay double rent. Also, being a student means that furniture and home goods splurges are far and few between. All the same, one day I returned home to find a beautiful IKEA sideboard across the street. Aside from a wonky leg and a missing shelf it was in perfect condition. A few weeks later a TV stand appeared around the corner. Then a side table. They all ended up in the flat. I never was the sort of person who picked up furniture from the street. I suppose I was always afraid the people who put it out would see. Strange since they were in fact chucking it out in the first place! Then again, there have always been cultural stereotypes associated with people uplifting chucked-out furniture in most of the countries I've lived in so perhaps it's not so surprising that I felt that way. I was always the one to advocate IKEA for cheap and cheerful solutions. Finding sturdier pieces of furniture for free or very little money can't really be beat though.
Glasgow is full of grannies who keep everything and hipsters who are on the prowl for vintage furniture to display their old turntables and cassette decks. Maybe it's the fact that most of the real-estate here is at least a hundred years old. Flats are huge with super high ceilings, old fireplaces, and crown molding as standard features. Some even have original stained-glass in the tops of the bay windows. It's things like this that make me value living in the UK as there is no way I could have afforded an apartment like this in NoVA! Anyway, somehow or another a lot furniture ends up in the street for uplift but often gets snagged before the night is through. My 50s (?) dressing table was one such find. My friend found it on a walk home and took the drawers with him so that no one would take it. He later returned for the table. When he moved, he gave it to me. Granted, I had to pay for the taxi home but still, it only set me back about 8 GBP ($13.87).  Many other pieces of furniture end up in charity shops where they get sold for really cheaply. Want a massive wood sideboard? Got 25 GBP ($40.86)? Done! It might have dents, scratches, or smell a bit strange but as long as you are willing to clean it and/or paint/refinish/love it the sky is the limit. I picked up a bedside table for 3 GBP ($4.90) at Salvation Army. 
On Monday, the boy and I were getting ready to go to IKEA to pick up bedding for my parent's graduation visit. We headed into a charity shop I hadn't been to before. Having a walk-in closet is wonderful, but I was really losing space by having to hang everything I owned or squeeze it into a hanging shelf. I found a pretty dresser that had a mirror on top. It was a little bit beat-up but mostly just dirty (it had wallpaper drawer liners and a broken hearing aid in it!). It was also 25 GBP ($40.86). I wasn't so in love with it that I wanted to spend that much. It only had three drawers and they were pretty shallow. As I pondered it and the boy encouraged me to think about it (i.e. leave the shop) one of the people who worked there approached me. She asked me what I was looking it and asked if I would be able to take it home immediately. Since I lived less than five minutes away it wouldn't require a delivery. She offered it to me for 10 GBP ($16.34). I was sold. We carried it home, cleaned it out, and headed to IKEA. End of story.
Or so I thought. Tonight, after two pep talks (one from each parent) to soothe my final exam panic freakout I headed to the guest bedroom to grab some fresh basil for dinner from the plant on the windowsill. Something caught my eye outside and I looked out only to see a plethora of  what seemed to be really good-looking vintage furniture being placed kerbside. I grabbed some shoes and ran down the stairs. The rain beat me to it, as did a man in a van who grabbed the TV sitting on a beautiful old dresser. 
I have to say that it almost hurt a bit when I realised that if I had waited a day or two that I could have gotten a dresser with much deeper drawers for free. I managed to carry it up the stairs along with a vintage sewing box table which definitely needs work (the inner-lining is shot and stained) but is certainly perfect for a side or bedside table. I didn't grab the hallway umbrella/coat stand because although I had the room, I didn't really have a good place for it. An hour or so ago I looked out the window and it too had vanished. Guess I'm not the only happy one tonight!
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my new furniture just yet. I'm definitely finishing exams first! I know I could live with the small imperfections but I also would love to re-finish or paint some of the pieces like Young House Love did with an older dresser they found on Craigslist. On a side note, if you aren't reading their blog, you should be! The mirrored dresser I bought already has clothes in it (my closet has so much more space!). The other one is empty. Since I have it in the hallway, I might use it to store the tea set and/or winter hats/mittens/etc, and extra sheets and duvet covers. All the same I definitely want to get rid of a lot of stuff before I fill up the dresser (I tried another Young House Love tactic when I was at my parents and tried to donate at least 100 things. I ended up with 235 items!). 
So there you have it! My attempt to write a shorter entry and get back to revision has failed but at least there are pretty pictures to look at, right? And if you should happen to have any DIY tips or ideas for the dresser or sewing table, I'm all ears!

Sewing Box Table

Ideas? Wondering how easy/hard it might be to re-do the inside!
The 50s (?) Dressing Table
The dresser I paid for...
And the one I got for free!
The free 160 GBP IKEA sideboard
The one that got away...the hallway umbrella/coat stand...

Monday, 25 April 2011

And the Bells Flew in from Rome!: Easter Dinner in Paris...

I really thought I would be able to blog yesterday and tell you all about my foray into making Easter dinner for the Frenchman (and my Dad). I was mistaken. Somewhere between the five hours of sleep I got and four hours of prep I lost my appetite for the meal I was making and fell into a food coma shortly after consuming small parts of the ridiculous amount of food I prepared! With the disasters of the night before behind me I awoke at eight to begin prep on dinner. First on the agenda was the Hazelnut and Chocolate Pithivier. It wasn't as challenging as I thought and as much as I don't enjoy baking it was one of the easier dishes that day. I've ranted about the duck and potato dish for two entries now so I'll spare you the ranting and raving this time. It all worked out but for whatever reason the potatoes wouldn't crisp up as much as they normally do. I think it may just have been the type of potato. The only real disappointment of the day was the Vichyssoise. Don't get me wrong, it tasted how it was supposed to and everyone enjoyed it...everyone but me that is. Maybe it's because I didn't like the taste of the fresh chervil I garnished it with, or maybe it's the fact that I find chilled soup a bit odd. All the same I'm not sure I would make it again. But the green beans! Wow, they were fantastic! Perfectly crisp and seasoned with olive oil, toasted walnuts, chopped red onion, and pomegranate seeds it was the perfect non-salad but salad-like accompaniment. I will definitely be making these again. And an added bonus, they look fabulous on the plate. The bright green and jewel-like appearance of the pomegranate seeds made everything look fresh and tasty. 
Overall the meal was a success. We had good food, lovely wine, and family. That's all you really need, isn't it? Happy Belated Easter to all of you! (Or as they say here Joyeuse Pâques!)

Revised Menu:

2o08 Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse 

Salmon Cucumber Brochettes 
(with baby tomatoes and a yogurt horseradish sauce)
Fresh Radishes
Cocktail Sausages

(garnished with fresh chives and chervil)

Roasted Duck Legs with Potatoes 
Green Beans with Walnuts 

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pithivier
Crème Brûlée and Vanilla Ice Cream

The ice cream was amazing! Wish we had it in Glasgow!
Chocolate with Fleurs d'Oranger Crème 
Easter Candy

The Easter Bunny and Bell came!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Madness OR How to Plan Easter Dinner in Less Than a Day...

Pre-Easter Dinner
Right after I finished my dissertation (but before I took my final oral exam for German) I made Easter dinner for the boy. It wasn't the fanciest dinner. Afterall, I did have an exam the next day! Still, we made the most of it. We bought a prepared starter and had ice cream for dessert (with some minor aesthetic adjustments!) and served a rosé cava throughout (couldn't be bothered switching wines between the entrée and main). I thought it would be sweet to share an Easter meal with the boy (pre-Easter of course) and celebrate the handing in of the dissertation. Also, I figured I wouldn't be cooking once I got home (and I really wanted to use the new Laguiole knives I got for my birthday!). 
I flew home expecting to hear the usual menu/plan for the day. There wasn't one so I volunteered to cook the entire meal. That was this morning. I didn't think my dad and his partner would take me seriously. I wasn't joking, but I didn't expect them to say yes either. Somehow without so much as an "Are you sure?" I found myself planning the menu for tomorrow's (actually today's) feast! Not that I'm complaining. I've been wanting to do a meal like this forever! Still, I hadn't anticipated that it would take so much planning and prep. I'm not particularly slow in the kitchen, but when you want things to go quickly sometimes they go tricky. Who knew for example that blanching hazelnuts didn't ensure that the skin would come off? And you wonder why I'm sitting here writing this...let's just say it is because of a fondant that wouldn't harden. So without further ado, the pictures from my first Easter dinner and the menu for tomorrow...

Easter Dinner (25.04.11):

Salmon Cucumber Brochettes
Baby Tomatoes
Serrano Ham


Roasted Duck Legs with Potatoes 
Green Beans with Walnuts 

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pithivier
Crème Brûlée and Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate with Fleurs d'Oranger Crème 

More details and pictures to follow!

I'm really proud to have come up with the menu on my own (the recipes are from various different sources). My father will be responsible for the canapés but I'm handling everything else. It wasn't the easiest menu to plan. It's super warm here (27 degrees today) and the meal had to have three courses and not be too heavy. The cold Vichyssoise should be refreshing and the Pithivier is a lighter tart. The Mignardises were a result of not being able to find peppermint essence (but have actually turned out better, other than the difficulties with the fondant)! I'm excited about the green beans which in addition to walnuts feature pomegranate seeds and red onion. The only tough part will be getting up at eight to start prep! 

Pre-Easter/Dissertation Dinner (20.04.11):

Mini Coquilles St. Jacques

Notice the knives (and the silverware rests)!

Roast Duck Legs with Potatoes
Dilled Carrots

This might look familiar...

Ice Cream
(Carte D'Or Chocolate Inspiration (for the boy) and Lavazza Latte Macchiato (for me) with Caramel Easter Bunnies, Anna's Chocolate and Vanilla Cookies, and Mini-Eggs)


Don't worry! As soon as we took the pictures we ate the entrée and set up an ice bucket for the cava! 

Thursday, 7 April 2011

I Wannaburger!

Back in the days when I ate the maximum amount of junk food I could get away with. The only variation was whether I would have chicken fingers, a hot dog, or a hamburger. Today, I still look forward to these things but pretty much only enjoy them when I'm in America. I just don't really enjoy fast food here in the UK. Maybe it's the growth hormones in the American beef, but most beef burgers here seem to have a strange aftertaste. There are only three burger places in the UK (Edinburgh, Belfast, and Glasgow) to date where this has not been the case and I've gone all giggly and smiley (ask the boy) at how wonderful and American the burgers taste. 
Last week the boy and I went to Edinburgh for a day out. I will admit that the main focus of the trip was to make a pilgrimage to Wannaburger. A few years ago when I was in my second year of university I went to Edinburgh on a day trip and stumbled across the Wannaburger on the Royal Mile. It was hip-looking. They were friendly. They made amazing milkshakes with Mackie's ice cream (for you Americans, this stuff is the creamiest most wonderful ice cream ever!) and of course fabulous burgers that tasted like home. 
Flash forward to last week. We had some time and decided to finally make the burger myth (I've ranted and raved about the burgers for months to the boy) a reality. We went to the aquarium first and stopped by Harvey Nichols to oogle more wonderful victual pleasures mainly to be able to say that we had done more than just go to eat at Wannaburger and then headed from the train station to the Royal Mile tired, hungry, and full of anticipation. And we couldn't find it!
To make matters worse, the boy's phone died and I lost my 3G connection so we walked around like idiots trying to figure out who to ask for help. I'll even admit that the boy was pushing me to ask and I refused because I was so sure I had enjoyed my burger on the Royal Mile.
With threats of McDonalds looming (we were that hungry) we headed to the location listed on the website which happened to have been 25 minutes in the direction we had walked from before. When we arrived, I became even more confused. Somehow, in the time between when I had last eaten there and now it had become some sort of ultra-hip, eco-friendly, self-service restaurant. It didn't deter us. In fact it all looked  much cooler than I remembered. After finding a seat and scoping out the menu (which also features veggie options and hot dogs) we settled on the following battle plan:

The boy ordered:
Double cheeseburger, cajun fries, and a chocolate milkshake (along with three complimentary homemade BBQ sauces)
I ordered: 
Double hamburger with red onion, regular fries, a chocolate milkshake, and for a bargain 30p a giant pickle

After establishing that there had at one time been a Wannaburger on the Royal Mile, we settled down to wait for our burgers. The food was quick and cooked to perfection. The service was good too. I forgot to show them my matric card and went back up to ask if I could still get the discount. They gave it to me (they normally don't apparently) which was super cool.
I don't even know where to begin with how tasty it all was. The burger was juicy and succulent and tasted like the burgers you see in hunger-inducing burger advertisements on television. The milkshake was rich and thick with small chunks of chocolate that enhanced the already creamy chocolate taste. The fries were the perfect complement (the boy loved the Cajun fries but they were a bit spicy for me) and the pickle...OH MY GOD! The pickle was JUST like the Spreewald Gurken (a regional pickle from close to Berlin) I used to get at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich. I've been lusting after them ever since I left. It was so good that I bought one to take home to eat for lunch the next day. My only regret was not trying the coleslaw. The barbecue sauce was also fantastic (and I'm not even a huge fan of the stuff) and the boy managed to consume nearly all three pots!
Wannaburger did not disappoint. The memory from nearly four years ago was put to shame. I remember it being good but this was a whole new level of loveliness. The only way they might improve themselves would be to bring Wannaburger to Glasgow! 
With a super-friendly staff, good prices (18-ish GBP for two), American ESPN, and of course amazing food this is one place you shouldn't miss. I have no shame in saying that I would go to Edinburgh again just to eat there...

7/8 Queensferry Road
Edinburgh EH2 4PA