Month: April, 2009

fun with british cuisine: the amazing adventures of bubble and squeak

don’t bubble and squeak sound like two adorable and mischievious muppet-like cartoon characters who gallivant about the english countryside and innocently find themselves stuck in amusingly entertaining situations? i’m making myself try every new dish i see on a menu here in london, which meant a heaping plate of faggots with bubble and squeak at a pub last sunday.

here’s what i learned. bubble and squeak is actually a sort of hash brown-like rectangularish patty of leftover mashed potatoes and myriad other vegetables. it’s thought that the origin of the name might be from the sounds made when one makes the dish. i kind of like this idea. what i REALLY like is the name of a similar dish of leftovers from the scottish borders called, no joke, rumbledethumps. i couldn’t make this stuff up if i tried.

rumbledethumps is obviously the mean, furry, 8 foot tall ogre living in a cave in bonny scotland that terrorizes poor bubble and squeak until they learn that the poor guy is just misunderstood and all he wants in life is friends to sit with him in his dark damp cave and share a cuppa tea.  perhaps on another adventure, the impetuous explorers bubble and squeak encounter the lovely but cursed swedish princess pyttipanna and save her from an unknown but obviously terrible fate.  in case you haven’t figured it out already, pyttipana is another virtually identical dish in sweden which literally translates to ‘leftovers in pan.’ whooo, new career as writer of children’s-books-based-on-bizarrely-named-european-dishes, here i come!

oh and in case you were wondering, faggots are meatballs. usually made out of offal, in this case made out of pork liver and belly. and in case you’re also wondering, the faggots will not make an appearance in the children’s story. here’s a visual of all of the above, plus peas.


speaking of peas, my first fish and chips dish in the UK came with a side of mushy minty peas. they tasted exactly as advertised.


served on newspaper? check. homemeade tartar sauce? check. a monstrous fried thingy that looked remarkably like fried cuy aka guinea pig? check. hot, greasy, and fantastically delicious? check, double check.


speaking of checking, kickass czech beer abounds in london. here’s me and my dave, a friend from nyc and new companion for edible excursions, downing some staropramen like champs.


thanks to dave we also sampled champagne truffles (wooo shot of alcohol), a bar of 100% cocoa (a complex taste sort of like coffee…and dirt) and a straight up all-out british breakfast. bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, poached eggs, and surprise! fries! we were not informed of the presence of fries on the menu, but who doesn’t enjoy surprise fries?


NOM NOM NOM. well done so far, london. absolutely cracking. definitely the bees knees. more eating to come…

this little piggy got roasted at the market (with fresh homemade applesauce)


i absolutely love markets. farmers markets, flea markets, even supermarkets in countries other than my own always bring a smile to my face no matter what kind of mood i’m in. things have been a teeny bit frustrating here in london what with the backwords hurdling werewolf chase of setting up a business. it’s been quite exciting but a bit exhausting, and going to the market is a great way to slow down and clear my mind.  we are sloooooowly moving towards signing our lease, but as non-citizens with no proof of UK employment, this process moves at about the brisk pace of the yearly expansion of finland’s land mass thanks to post-glacial rebound. yes, post-ice-age isostatic recovery always provides me with an endless source of entertainment.

post-glacial rebound aside, i am here to talk about the endless excitement of markets. to tantalize your tastebuds and stimulate your imagination as to how ridiculously wonderful our apartment will be once we actually get it, i’ll show you some photos from last week’s broadway market. our hopeful new place is sandwiched right in between this phenomenal saturday market, chock full of independent food retailers and fashion stalls, and the famous sunday morning columbia road flower market. my first visit there will be to stock our new flat floor-to-ceiling with bouquets and plants and loveliness in bloom.

thus, we will have a one-two punch of back-to-back weekend marketing within a five minutes walk radius of our place. this idea makes me happy as a pig in sh*t.  or,  happy as me with a roasted bit of pig in bun in hand. miraculously, this exact item happened to be on sale at the first stall of the market. this poster, and the accompanying smell, called to me with  caressing words of love and promises of porky perfection.

yeah. for reals. i’m obsessed with this stand. they have a huge metal grill with a slowly rotating hog on a spit. when you order, they grab a ciabatta from a stacked pyramid of rolls in a cute wicker basket and slather it with homemade applesauce. it’s soft on the inside, but hardy enough to contain an massive helping of sandwich innards. then goes in a handful of roquette (which i assume =  rocket, which also = arugula…where are we, europe or something?) and then a generous serving of succulent moist pork. the crowning detail that swiftly buys my adoration? a few carefully selected pieces of crackly pork skin, artfully placed on top of this work of art.



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the taste of bitter love is creamy, sweet, and delicious

sometimes i make no sense, but sometimes i do.  my not-literally-but-for-all-intents-and-purposes siamese twin chris and i stumbled upon what might be the most adorable coffee shop on the planet a few days ago while house hunting in hackney in east london. it’s called ‘the taste of bitter love‘ and it’s a tiny little storefront with just a few tables inside and out on the sidewalk. their sign proclaims ‘really really good food and coffee’ so obviously we had to stop and test the veracity of this bold statement.


verdict: true. i swear to you i am not exaggerating when i say that this is one of the best iced coffees i have ever had. i realize i am quite prone to hyperbole, but seriously, it was fantastic. rich, creamy, frothy, sweet but not cloyingly so, it was an iced coffee to rule all other iced coffees. the only bad thing about this coffee was that it was so good that i wanted more. please sir, may i have some more?

to minimize my already unnecessarily high caffeine intake for the morning, i settled for a delicious veggie sandwich instead. grilled eggplant, squash, sundried tomatoes, zucchini, fresh spinach, goat cheese, and a thick slab of brie on a hefty chunk of focaccia.  you can eat these beauties fresh or have them grilled on a panini press while you wait, giving the bread a nice crunchy exterior.


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breakfast is always more exciting when something catches on fire


chris and i adventured to the neighborhood of clapham to look at flats during our first few days in london and found ourselves eating breakfast at a fantastic little place called breads etc. this cafe already had me at hello with a peek in the window at the droolworthy bread and pastry display pictured above. however, they won my heart completely when we walked in and noticed that EVERY TABLE HAD ITS OWN TOASTER.  ahhhh! seriously. YOUR VERY OWN TOASTER. AT THE TABLE. i kid you not.


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hello londontown! bad airplane food and good things to come.

london! i’ve been here for just about a week now, and finally have some time to post. it’s been a battle against shoddy internet situations and the time suck of running full speed ahead into a towering wall of meticulously reinforced bureaucratic red tape. let’s just say that the process of setting up a business in another country is just a leeetle bit complicado.  however, it’s been an exciting journey so far and don’t worry, we’ve been keeping our bellies full of delicious stuff along the way.

indulge me in a quick aside about what has NOT been delicious – my final meal before touching down in londontown. i made sure to have a good last meal in the U.S. of A., (by which i mean several alcoholic beverages in the international terminal at logan airport) but my meal over the atlantic ocean was shocking in its level of inedibility. i know, i know, who expects airplane food to be good? what was i thinking? well, i’ve actually had really good food on international flights recently (tortellini on a united flight to rome comes to mind) and i obviously had some unrealistically high expectations. they were crushed to sad little pieces when i got this plate of something-sort-of-resembling-risotto-if-it-were-meant-to-be-consumed-by-humans:


it tasted like someone had carefully minced a large cardboard box full of styrofoam packing peanuts and placed them in the microwave for several hours until soft enough to be chewed and swallowed and then coated the resulting turds with a liberal sprinkling of dirt and salt. virgin atlantic, i had such high hopes for you. however, i very much appreciate the cute little gift packages with well-designed socks and eye masks and toothbrushes all fitting into one adorable little pouch. so i forgive you. just don’t disappoint me again next time.

up next: all the good things we’ve had to eat in london! in case you’re wondering, the next post involved a meal where something caught on fire. EXCITING!

a happy birthday at hazelnut kitchen

Over the weekend, Daniel and I made the twenty-minute drive to Trumansburg, NY to dine at the lovely Hazelnut Kitchen. As you may know, the Ithaca/Finger Lakes area is a destination for foodies who love semi-rural areas, beautiful scenery, and local, sustainable, organictastic food (and wine, but I don’t know anything about that, this being my 19th birthday…). Apologies in advance for the sort of bad pictures. The camera was on the verge of dying, and then it did, right before dessert…I’m new here.

The restaurant was tucked away, almost invisible on the main street, small and homey with a bar and a view of the kitchen. They serve Gimme! coffee and the menu lists all the farms they buy products from, including goat cheese producers, apiaries, and so on.


That there is the specials blackboard, and a view of the exposed brick walls. 

I’ll get straight to the good stuff. First, bread and appetizers. 


The bread came in a little metal pail with green onion butter. It was excellent.


Daniel started with a calamari watercress salad with black olive vinaigrette, feta, wheat berries, and red pepper coulis. Pretty!


I had this genius creation, which I could literally eat every day for the rest of my life. Bottom layer of semolina pasta sheet. Middle layer of smoked ham, ricotta cheese, and garlicky broccoli rabe. Blanket of sunny-side-up organic farm egg. Be still my heart. Be growly my stomach.

Our entree escapades were equally fruitful, or, perhaps more accurately, meatful. Daniel killed some pan seared duck with plum miso sauce, grilled asparagus, snap peas, and baby carrots, and I housed down a roasted, natural, pasture-raised chicken breast wrapped in the most crisp and delightful bacon I’ve ever eaten, over a vinaigrette bread salad with green onion-wrapped asparagus. Feast your eyes. 

Bonus points for a crispy little bit of thigh on the chicken as well. You can see it peeking out from behind that green onion. Hello, friend.

Dan and I finished the meal with triple espresso chocolate cake and a warm apple galette, both with amazing vanilla ice cream. Alas, I have no pictures, but I think I’ve probably tortured you enough already.

When will I return to Trumansburg, and bring you with me, you ask? 


May 3 for the chicken BBQ. Buy your bus tickets now.

nyc food tour, part seven: chinatown is a paradise of assorted munchies

for my final US of A post, i’d like to showcase some final photos from new york chinatown. i enjoyed a wonderful few hours wandering the area solo with the bean, and then a round table dinner with a kickass crew of dumpling eaters.

irenebean and i started off with a serious case of the munchies. no illicit substances necessary, we pretty much always have the munchies. luckily we encountered paradise in front of us, also known as aji ichiban:


obviously, one is welcome to taste anything they like in munchies paradise. did you know paradise also includes super crunchy mini dried crabs that you eat whole?


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Eat Sustainable Meat From Farmers Markets: More Delicious, Less Deadly!

sup peeps. this post was originally published at eat.drink.better a few weeks ago and i want to share it with you now. reading it, you will notice that a) i  do understand punctuation and that excessive hyphenization is not normal, b) i know how to capitalize, and c) i actually can prevent my filthy mouth from spilling out onto the page if necessary. however, on my (our) blog, i just choose not to. okay? anyway, enjoy.

Meat Menu at the Farmers Market

For those of us who love a crispy slice of bacon but also care about the impact of our food choices, eating meat can be a very complex issue. Just for starters, there’s the environmental aspects of meat production, the safety concerns with industrial processing (read this frightening article in the NYTimes about ‘anthrax sausages’) and the thorny ethical questions of animal welfare to consider. It’s a difficult question: how can we have our steak and eat it too?

My current solution? Buy locally and sustainably raised meat from farmers markets. I went to the bustling Union Square Greenmarket in New York City last weekend to explore my meat purchasing options and do some research. And by ‘research,’ I mean ‘eating.’ Here are photos and some reasons why farmers markets are a great place to get your meat fix.

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nyc food tour, part six: Chinatown Rules Everything Around Me – dollar dollar bills, y'all.

chinatown in manhattan is a buyer’s paradise. you’ve got bargains galore, from imitation gucci to bootleg cds to endless loads of cheap imported crap. i used to live right off canal street, and wading through the hordes of tourists taking up precious sidewalk space while looking for fake fendi bags used to irk me on the regular (although i’ll admit that a local source for cheap sunglasses is immensely useful when you go through approximately 43.7 pairs per month). but the low prices aren’t confined to the luxury knockoffs   – the food in chinatown is plentiful, varied, authentic, and generally extremely inexpensive, not to mention FANTASTICALLY DELICIOUS.

i’d like to draw your attention to two particular purchases made with one dollar each. no joke. one single george washington, equivalent to 100 disregarded pennies that often inhabit the crevasses of your sofa or fail to merit your attention when lying unattended on the sidewalk.  regard the following plate:


lexi and irene worship at the altar of fried dumpling.

you might start keeping track of pennies now that you know that a hundred of those suckers will buy you a plate of FIVE succulent and freshly folded fried dumplings. yes, deep in the heart of chinatown exists what most be the most straightforwardly named hole in the wall food emporium on the planet: Fried Dumpling. you can tell by the name that this joint sells the best scandinavian-inspired modular shelving units in new york.


kidding. they do make a mean burrito though.

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nyc food tour, part five: tofu clouds, sweet gooey balls, and family styles for reals


mei: in true family styles, we have a guest post from our stellar cuzzin and woman-about-town, lexi, with some non-italicized interjections from yours truly. along with rachel, one of my oldest friends from back in the meth-and-mary-j-day, lexi, bean and i hit up the banh mi at nicky’s vietnamese sandwiches, where we stuffed our faces to a serious extreme.  above, the juicy pork chop with fresh pickled carrots and other veggies, in the warm embrace of a perfectly crusty/soft ratioed baguette.

lexi: ‘i have delicious yammies’lexi-and-the-classic

mei: to be specific, a headless lexi is double fisting the classic vietnamese sandwich with a paté of roasted ground pork and vietnamese ham. YUM. below, delicious savory grilled chicken on a luxurious bed of rice vermicelli. i’ll be honest, i would sleep on rice noodles every night.  as long as i had a soft pillow of summer roll on which to lay my weary head. Read the full article »