Friday, December 4, 2009

Lettuce Wraps and Work

I really like the idea of a lettuce wrap for several reasons. The first being that you are essentially wrapping something that is possibly, and in this case definitely, high in fat inside of lettuce. Wrapping up your own food and eating it also adds an element of fun, plus the crunch of the lettuce should compliment whatever is inside of it. Sunday night I made lettuce wraps that came out pretty good, and while I don’t totally remember how I made them, I’m going to try and share the recipe with you. I made them for five people so I would get one small chicken breast per person, 2 stalks of chopped green onion, about half of a tablespoon of finely chopped ginger, 4 cups of bean sprouts, 1 cup of chopped water chestnuts, 1 large shredded carrot, 3 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used smooth but it would probably also taste good with chunky peanut butter), 3-5 cloves crushed garlic, one very thinly sliced red pepper, half of a packet of spaghetti (to serve 3-4), one packet of Ramen noodles, one head of Boston lettuce and low sodium soy sauce. Bring water to a boil in a pot and cook the spaghetti. Chop up the chicken into cubes and cook in a pan with a bit of olive oil, add the garlic and ginger, followed by the green onion, carrot and half of the bean sprouts. After about 5-8 minutes, add half of a cup of soy sauce, the water chestnuts and peanut butter. Mix around the peanut butter with tongs or a fork so that it is evenly spread throughout the dish. Add the cooked spaghetti and remaining bean sprouts and serve with crushed, raw Ramen noodles (Rebs’ idea), extra soy sauce and Boston lettuce for wrapping. No need to add salt here, the soy does it for you.

This whole week has been pretty great and productive. Monday I had class, went to the gym and studied for a final. Tuesday I watched “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in my Media class, and took the British Life and Cultures final which I think went really well. Tuesday night I had yoga, which was unceremoniously followed by a helping of beef nachos. On Wednesday I was sent to the Piccadilly location of the restaurant to help manage the floor. It was a ton of fun and I even got to make a New Jersey joke:

Me: How is everything over here?
Customer: Everything is great, are you American?
Me: Yes I am, are you?
Customer: Where from? I’m from Arizona.
Me: New York, but the state not the city. I live on Long Island
Customer: Lawng Island. Hahaha. Do you live near JFK?
Me: I do, but I actually left the States from Newark Airport
Customer: That sucks.


Wednesday night I went with a bunch of my friends to see “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” which was being performed by an all-black cast featuring James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad. The play was great but those two actors literally killed it and I’m so glad that I was able to see them on stage (even though I was watching from the last row of the theatre, which was totally fine because we all paid just 10 pounds to see it!).

Thursday I went to the county of Buckinghamshire to go to the High Wycombe location of the restaurant. I got to spend a lot of time with my boss between taking the National Rail to get there and helping her tp pick out a “jumper” from Marks and Spencer. She is legitimately so funny and High Wycombe is a very cool area that I definitely would not have been able to visit if it weren’t for my internship. When you get out of the train station you’re in this quaint, cobblestone village with dark brown buildings and winding roads. The town is surrounded by hills which makes it quite windy, but the wind pushed us through the outdoor market and into the Eden shopping center (which is this half indoors, half outdoors monstrosity sort of stuck like a sore thumb in the middle of the town) where the restaurant is located. The structure for this location is a steep, upside-down trapezoid and is made partially of glass so you can watch people shopping while you eat.

When I got home later that night I made grilled tuna with some sesame seeds, a splash of orange juice, olive oil and soy sauce and placed it over an oriental-style salad with a dressing made of the above ingredients plus some balsamic vinegar. Today I went to the Mayfair location of the restaurant before heading over to the Head Office, which happens to be right near Abbey Road. My boss let me leave early today so I walked over to Abbey Road before coming back to the dorms and took a bunch of pictures. Unfortunately since it was just me I couldn’t do that infamous walk, but I did watch as a group of girls tried relentlessly to get the perfect shot for Facebook.

Tonight I am meeting up with my friend Janine who goes to Oxford (like for school, not just for wizarding around) who is the sister of my past and future roommate at American University. After that I will be going to sleep as soon as I can because my flight leaves for Rome tomorrow at 6a.m.! Ciao!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Longer Hello

Once break ended about a month ago my theatre class was replaced by an internship and an internship class. I spoke a little bit about my internship in an earlier post but now that it has officially started I can talk about what I’ve been up to. I’m interning for a restaurant group that will remained unnamed in fear of being discovered via a Google search. I will tell you that the first restaurant opened in 1909, the restaurant name starts with an “R” and their signature color is red. Hmmm. I started on the Friday after I got back from Paris and Barcelona and have been interning there Wednesday-Friday since. Each day I work out of a different restaurant location doing things from contacting suppliers to updating pricing to planning the Thanksgiving menu (because I am American…). My internship highlight so far has been helping to manage a breakfast for 80 Jewish businessmen. Yes, that really happened in London. I love it because I move from place to place—sometimes within one day—and get to interact with different restaurant managers, customers and members of the company’s head office. It’s making me think seriously about working for a specific restaurant group instead of a marketing or PR firm that deals with restaurants, supermarkets or food brands. The future is pretty exciting.

Since break ended I’ve still been taking my Media and British Life and Cultures classes. With BLC I went to the British Library and saw beautiful old religious texts, original Beatles lyrics scribbled on scraps of paper and works from Oscar Wilde. Two weeks ago we went to the Tate Britain which is a museum featuring art from the 16th century to the present. Our tour guide for the former had the most annunciated speech I’ve ever heard, and for the latter spoke so quietly that she had to speak into a little microphone which was then projected into headphones that we were all given. Right now I’m working on my final projects for both of these classes and both involve food, go figure! For me Media class I am writing a paper on Nigella Lawson and how her TV shows are more of a porno than anything else (my professor even referred to her “Christmas Tips” article as her “Christmas Tits” article). For British Life and Cultures I’m doing a presentation on why people eat so slowly here and how restaurants can make money when turning tables is on the bottom of their totem pole of goals.

Two weekends ago I went to Dublin with a bunch of my friends for the weekend. I had heard that Dublin was a very London-like but it is entirely entirely not at all, at least I didn’t think so. The city is distinctly Irish, and proud of it. It probably helped that two football games were happening that weekend and the town was painted orange, white and green but still, Dublin is not London. We did a free walking tour around the city given by this guy with long red hair [insert Irish ginger joke here] who kept changing his voice to sound like a Trojan warrior and started singing at several intervals throughout. My friends said it was like I was giving the tour. Whatever. My food highlight of our first day there was a perfect sausage roll that didn’t leave me feeling gross, greasy or sausage-y at all. We walked from St. Stephens Green to Trinity College, the Temple Bar to the Spire of Dublin.

At night we did a pub crawl but ended up leaving the crawl to get back to the first pub which was blasting old-school music and serving up Bailey’s on ice. Did I mention I was 12.5% Irish?

On Sunday I had a delicious fruit smoothie for breakfast and we took the bus to the Guinness factory which was definitely someplace that I would go to again despite my dislike of the stout (I did say only 12.5%, right?). Old drums used for brewing were turned upside down, cut open and filled with flat screens depicting different steps of the brewing process and the whole place was covered with exposed sea foam green beams. We ate at the restaurant inside of the factory and our meal included a variety of Guinness breads, seafood chowder and was finished off with a chocolate-Guinness muffin (12.5%!!).

Getting back to the airport that night and getting back to London could not have been easier and I would really like to go back and explore other parts of Ireland if I can.

I was very lucky to have both my Grandparents and my boyfriend, Will, visit me over the past week. My Grandparents came first and we saw “Hairspray” and “Jersey Boys” (both were really well done!), went to Westminster, Harrods, Piccadilly Circus and the National Portrait Gallery, the Changing of the Guards and The Royal Collection, Kensington Palace and did a bunch of walking around.

Will came here Wednesday morning and we did everything touristy plus going to Camden (hello mulled wine and freshly-made donuts, seriously), Queen's Arms, O'neill's, Covent Garden, Green Park, the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs!), the Serpentine and even more walking around which was great because we were eating… a lot.

Restaurants from both visits included: Byron, Tuttons, Sophie’s, Pizza Express, Masala Zone, Disco D’Mario (for Thanksgiving with the American University people from my program. Nothing like garlic bread and an antipasto platter on Turkey Day!), Wahaca and, of course, Ping Pong. I am in need of a serious detox, but it was all worth it. In the words of Nigella, "I don't want one meal to be less than delicious, otherwise what a waste."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Quick Hello

My internship started three weeks ago, I went to Dublin last weekend, my Grandparents were here this week, Will lands in 8 hours and I am going to Rome next weekend. Whew! A real update to come on Sunday, possibly with pictures?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An American Girl in Paris, Versailles and Barcelona

We (Rebs, Jeff, Brian, Emily and myself) arrived to a rainy Paris on the morning of Saturday the 24th of October . After settling in and grabbing a quick croissant, we found ourselves starving and in a restaurant-barren area. We walked into an empty bar and ate some mediocre steak frites with a small salad. This was not what we thought Paris would be. Seeing this, we immediately headed toward something distinctly Parisian, the Louvre. We walked around the Louvre, and toward the Eiffel tower but we didn’t want to see the tower just yet.

For dinner we chose to eat at a restaurant just close enough to the tower that we could see the upper-half lit up, and I had French onion soup with baguette and a glass of white wine. This was France.

We had a really fun night in our sketchy hotel hanging out and drinking the Heineken bottles we had to sneak in when the electricity went down. Good times at the Altona.

Sunday we woke up to a bright morning, and we ate outdoors at a lovely patisserie in St. Michel. I had a peach yogurt and pain aux raisins. The pastry was amazing. We were in St. Michel as it was where our New Europe (free) tour was going to begin that morning. The tour was really great, entertaining and informative and I would definitely suggest that anyone coming to Europe check out one of the tours they offer. We went practically everywhere around Paris from Notre Dame to the Champs-Élysées. The tour involved a half-hour lunch break during which I purchased a whole wheat baguette with lox, cucumber and dill cream cheese. Delicious. After the tour we walked to the Arc de Triomph (which is extremely ornate up close), and then back to our hotel to rest after our long day.

For dinner we went back to St. Michel and headed into a little restaurant filled with antique French signs and tables covered with red-and-white checkered cloths. Jeff and I split escargot and a ham and cheese crêpe as an appetizer and the escargot was a perfect buttery, garlic wonderland that I never wanted to leave. For dinner I had Duck a l’Orange and a glass of white wine, but I really preferred Emily’s Boeuf Bourguignon which was deliciously tender with deep flavor. After dinner we headed over the meeting place for this pub crawl that was a part of our free walking tour and spent the night going around to different pubs and bars in the area.

Monday morning we woke up to finally see the Eiffel Tower. We got out of the metro and sort of looked at each other as if to say “where is it” (because immediately when you walk out you see a park), and then finally I looked up and screamed. This French guy and his girlfriend smirked in response to my spotting of the Eiffel Tower but I did not care. This seemingly industrial monument is actually delicately beautiful. I bought a cola-flavored ice pop for breakfast, and walked around to take pictures. We were very lucky to have been able to see the Eiffel Tower on such a sunny and bright day.

For lunch Jeff, Rebs and I met Tom (who is studying abroad in Paris) at a café near the Louvre, and with such great weather we decided to sit outside. I had camembert on a baguette. After lunch we went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa which was mounted on its own wall and behind bullet-proof glass. My favorite moment in Paris came next during our night tour of Montmarte. Montmarte is famously known as the home of the Moulin Rouge, but is also filled with street art, little restaurants and cafés and a deep artistic history. The area is on a steep incline and at the top sits the a beautiful white church called the Sacré-Cœur, from which you have the most amazing aerial view of the city.

From here we a saw the Eiffel Tower light up and it was seriously breathtaking. For dinner we went to a quaint Italian restaurant that was painted a light turquoise on the outside. I ordered an antipasto platter followed by ravioli with a gorgonzola sauce and profiteroles for dessert (and ate every last bit of it). We hung out in the area for a little before heading back, and if I am ever fortunate enough to go back to Paris this is definitely the first place I will come back to.

On Tuesday we decided to see Versailles and the royal Château. Tom came with us, and we ate at a bustling restaurant run by two waiters. I had, as Tom told me, a Norman dish of fish soup with crostini, horseradish mayonnaise and shredded emmantal. After lunch we stopped into a patisserie where I got a raspberry tart, and made our way over to the Château. Let me tell you, this place puts Buckingham Palace to shame. It was grand and gilded on the outside, and the enormity of the palace was only multiplied by the windows that provided views onto the gardens. We were able to see the staterooms as well as the bedrooms of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and the room of mirrors. My favorite part was the garden which seemingly never ended and was entirely lush. We got outside just in time to appreciate the manicured plantation before seeing the sunset, which was stunning.

As we left Versailles we decided that before dinner we should go see the Eiffel Tower. We got there just minutes after it had ended glittering, so we took pictures and waited around for another hour at which point we all just stood back in awe as this amazing structure began to sparkle. Jeff has got a really good video of this to check out on Facebook.

For dinner Tom took us to this extremely tiny fondue restaurant somewhat near St. Michel. The place was filled with blacks and browns and made me feel as if I were in the countryside. We ordered beef and duck along with a cheese fondue that came with baguette and apples. The food was definitely worth the wait, as we had to cook it ourselves, and the cheese fondue was possibly one of my favorite food moments in Paris. We hung out at the restaurant for a bit and then walked around St. Michel, grabbed some ice cream, and went back to our hotel to pack.

We had all of Wednesday morning to say goodbye to Paris so we decided to see Notre Dame and the Musée d’Orsay. We went back to the patisserie in St. Michel for breakfast (I had an apple pastry, peach yogurt and then I split a pain aux raisins with Jeff because they are seriously that good) and then headed over to the Notre Dame which is about a block or so away. We thought it would be really funny for Rebs and I to put Jeff’s backpack under our jackets and pretend to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was pretty amusing and definitely made some other tourists stop and wonder what was going on. Oh well. The structure had a very dark and ominous feeling very unlike the deeply beautiful Sacré-Cœur . After Notre Dame we took the tube over to Orsay and saw many pieces by Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, etc. The museum itself sits inside of an old train station and had a gilded arch ceiling with an earthy green paint and a massive clock at the front. I liked the structure because it made it very easy to get around and to understand the flow from one room to the next. After the museum, we had our last lunch in Paris which consisted of a salad and a croquet monsieur the size of my head but as delicious and crispy as anything. We said our final goodbye via a lemon tart from a patisserie down the block.

Au revoir Paris!

Wednesday night we arrived in beautiful Barcelona, which, by the way, smells exactly like Florida to me. We took a bus from the airport to the top of La Rambla, and dragged our luggage down this lively street until we found our hotel. The hotel was on the right-hand corner of a square with a fountain in the center, palm trees spread about and people laughing and eating everywhere. I like Barcelona. We went out for dinner (fried vegetable, potato and tortilla for tapas, seafood paella, sangria and crema canatala) and then passed out. Thursday morning we grabbed some churros and chocolate and headed to the water (yes, water) to catch an open-air hop-on hop-off tour bus that we would (between all of the hopping on and hopping off) be on for the next seven-and-a-half hours. When we landed in Barcelona the night before I turned on my camera only to find out that it was not reading my memory card. I was originally really bummed about this, but I think that my inability to take pictures on this tour actually ended up being a positive thing. Taking mental photos allowed me to sit back, look up and enjoy the sights. We hopped off the bus at La Sagrada Familia (one of the many pieces of architecture we would see by Gaudi) and had lunch in its shadow.

The lunch was enormous and consisted of ham and white beans, salad, grilled tuna, fruit and a half pint of San Miguel. We sat outside, relaxed and listened to several street performers sing and play guitar. Back on the bus we went everywhere from the Universidad Barcelona to the football stadium and made one of our final stops at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. While this museum does not sit at the highest point in the city, its terrace does provide beautiful views of the city.

We got there just as the sun was coming down, which made the sky turn from an eerie neon pink to pitch black. The lights of the city were bright and beautiful from above, and we took a seat on the steps and watched Barcelona from above until we realized that the bus would be taking its last stop soon. We caught it just in time to get back and walk around La Rambla de Mar before getting ready for the night.

Dinner was pretty much the same as the night before except for more tapas, more sangria and the addition of chicken to my seafood paella. We hung out at the restaurant for a while and then headed over to a club around 12:30a.m., followed by a lounge that made probably the best mojitos I will ever have in my life. Lucky for us, the lounge was located just across the way from our hotel, so we just stumbled past the concierge, found our way up the stairs and passed out in our beds.

On our bus tour from the day before we were given a discount packet for a bunch of touristy things to do in Barcelona. Friday morning we grabbed breakfast on La Rambla de Mar (a ham and cheese sandwich with a strawberry-melon smoothie), got tickets for a speedboat (at something like 9 Euro!) and headed to the beach. The beach was just across the street from a bunch of shops, restaurants and bars, and we all took the time to relax and stare at the ocean. Jeff and I got a slice of coconut from a man who was selling them of a pinkish-purple bucket and Rebs very characteristically did a photo shoot in the sand. After about an hour or so we walked back and got on the boat. I really am my mother’s daughter because we met a man and woman on the boat who are from the same town as me in New York. The boat took us along the coast and as my sunglasses pressed against my face due to the gusts of wind, I was able to appreciate the true beauty of this amazing, eclectic city. After the boat ride we changed and headed to the food market off of La Rambla. I was instantly at home amongst the fresh fruits, live fish and crustaceans and gummies galore. I picked a fresh papaya-coconut juice out of the lot that women were tirelessly stacking and covering with crushed ice.

Jeff and I got a small tin of cod croquettes (which was one of my food highlights of the trip) and I was literally in heaven. In a state of awe and shock I somehow made it over to another fruit stand to purchase a fruit salad and small papaya for later. I have no idea how I even left that market, perhaps Jeff and Rebs bribed me with more food elsewhere… due to my food trance I will probably never know.

We got on the metro just outside of the market, and got off to explore a northern part of the city. After all of the Gaudi we had seen the day before, we knew that we wanted to see Park Guell. The long steep hike to the park is worth every pulled muscle as even in darkness the park is a site to see. We used the flashes of our cameras in order to see the intricate mosaic that covered this whimsical park. I ate my fruit salad and papaya on one of the twisty, mosaic-covered benches, and we looked down onto the city through an orangey-haze.

This is definitely one of the sights (other than the food market, obviously) that I would like to return to if I am able to come back to Barcelona. We got off of the metro a stop early in order to see the Gaudi “dragon” building and then walked from the top of La Rambla toward the end to find a place to eat.

Yet again we ended up eating tapas and seafood paella, but these tapas were more fish-based than the other nights. The dinner was a beautiful end to a beautiful trip, and as we ate outside on the lively, vibrant street, I knew I needed to find my way back here somehow.

Pretty, patisserie Paris and bustling, beach-y Barcelona, I will miss you both.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Four Hours to Paris

This has been a very adventure-packed week. On Monday I went to Covent Garden (hello Eliza Doolittle…) to see “Dirty Dancing” with Jeff and Kelly. It was sort of cheesy but definitely very fun and the dancing, as you might guess, was great… or dirty? Before the show we saw a bunch of people who were sitting around us trying to take a picture of something or someone. It happened again during the intermission so I asked the girl sitting next to me what was going on and she told me that Craig Revel Horwood was in the audience. He is a judge for their “Dancing with the Stars” equivalent, “Strictly Come Dancing,” and the girl next to me said he is a very harsh judge. He was there because Monday night marked the three year anniversary for “Dirty Dancing” in the West End. I had strawberry ice cream during the intermission.

Tuesday I went to the BBC Television Centre in White City for a tour with my media class. It was so much fun! Our tour guide, Ian, showed us around Television Centre including the news room which was literally out of a movie or TV show. The room was massive with tons of casually-dressed people drinking coffee and looking at computers or TV screens while typing. The room had purple swivel chairs and accents of the BBC’s signature color, red. We got to see this room via a one-way mirror, and my favorite part of the tour was when I saw one guy get up and offer chocolate chip cookies to his colleagues. Another fun fact from the tour was that Jennifer Lopez refused to walk 20 feet to the entertainment entrance from the parking lot, so she illegally asked her driver to drive her to the front door. Only the Queen and this one guy from “Top Gear” had ever driven down this circular driveway. Whatever JLo. I also liked playing fake weather girl in front of a blue (not green) screen for the people in my group. I put on the worst possible British accent that I could in order to describe the weather, and I’m sure the British people on our tour thought I was a total lunatic. Oh well.

After the tour we went across the street to the Westfield Mall, which is the largest mall in Europe. While the mall itself has two floors on which you could walk, each store has two levels which made for extremely high ceilings. The food court was absolute gorgeous insanity. From salads to British pies this place had everything, but it’s not your mother’s food court. The place was chiq and sophisticated with low lighting, neutral tones and modern seating. I opted for an Indian food stand where I purchased chicken tikka masala with thinly-sliced cucumbers and mango-chutney, all wrapped in naan, with some sort of herbal-infused yogurt on the side. Absolutely delicious and beautifully placed on a square white plate with rounded edges.

After lunch I went to the Buttercup Bake Shop stand (did you really think I was going to pass out on dessert…) where I picked a passion fruit cupcake; think vanilla cake but a bit sweeter with a distinctly passion-fruit buttercream frosting. My style all the way. We unfortunately had to leave this wondrous haven of food (who cares about the clothing stores!) to go to our next tour at the Globe Theatre and also get another great view of St. Paul's Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge.

The Globe Theatre was as beautiful in the day as it is at night, although certainly more charming when the smell of bear and hot chocolate is in the air. We got to go on stage which was awesome and I pretended to die several times to honor the late, great William Shakespeare.

Our tour guide was very theatrical and just spout out Shakespearian sonnets and prose at the drop of a hat. One of the most interesting things that he taught us was that the actors at Shakespeare’s original Globe would be given a scroll with just their lines and line cues on it. This scroll could roll up into a roll creating the “role” as we know it today. After the Globe, we walked a minute or so over to the Tate Modern to pick a picture which we will later discuss in our British Life and Cultures class. I chose this drawing of a hamburger drawn by Andy Warhol that was blown up and therefore made grainy to show the immediacy of fast food. The Warhol room was covered with a bright yellow and pink wallpaper print he had made of a cow and was an eye-popping piece against the otherwise white walls. The Tate was followed by Tuesday night yoga, which was followed by an amazing dinner by Emily of sliced sausage, penne, whole canned tomatoes, onion and red and yellow pepper. The secret? Fennel seeds and a splash of red wine. Absolutely delicious.

Wednesday was a pretty lazy day. I woke up, did some homework and watched “The Sweetest Thing” before heading over to class. Theatre class was cut short so that we could get to the Soho Theatre on time to see the play “Orphans.” Before the play, Jeff, myself and our friends Ashley and Lauren went to this Italian sandwich shop called Café Deco on Gloucester road to sit down for a sandwich and dessert (I had a salad with an Italian meats sandwich and a slice of lemon loaf). Our uplifting dinner could not uplift the evening, however, as the play was very dark and depressing. We decided that this depression could only be cured through a Fruli (strawberry fruit beer) and some chili rice crackers at the Queen’s Arms which is conveniently situated directly across from my dorm room window. The four of us then studied for our theatre final and headed to bed. The following afternoon I took my theatre final (I think it went well), walked to the gym through my favorite backstreets and ate a chicken and vegetable stir-fry with plum sauce prepared by myself and Jeff. After dinner I watched “Glee” and nearly died. I know it is probably very lame, but I genuinely like watching that show and I think it’s pretty clever. Well except for that little “Thong Song” bit… Anyway, today I finished a paper for my British Life and Cultures class, handed it in and ran several errands on Kensington High Street. For dinner Emily made a very rich macaroni and cheese with lemon broccoli and halibut. We walked over to the Queen’s Arms for a Fruli, stood outside like all good Londoners do and discussed our plans for the next week.

Tomorrow (AKA in four hours) I will be traveling to Paris with Jeff, Rebs, Emily and Brian. We are going to be in Paris until Wednesday when we (just myself, Jeff and Rebs) fly to Barcelona until Saturday to be back just in time for Halloween! I think tomorrow we’re going to check out a museum or two because the weather says rain, but for the rest of our days in France we are going to be enormous tourists, do a walking tour, possibly a river cruise and (hopefully) go to Versailles. As for Barcelona, Jeff’s mom lived and studied there for a while so she gave us a bunch of places to visit such as Las Ramblas and La Sagrada Familia, but also told us about some less touristy sorts of things. In general I plan to eat and smell as much as I can, and hopefully document every bit of it well enough so that I can convey what is sure to be the beauty of Paris and Barcelona to all of you. Until then, au revoir, adiós!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movies and Mascarpone

It’s really interesting to think about how much there is to do and see in London. For example, today I went to Sloane Square, which is just two tube stops away from where I live and it is entirely different from this area! Ok, not exactly a revelation, but it made me feel as if I should just take the Circle or District line to its end and hop on and off at each stop to check everything out. Definitely wouldn’t be the most sensible thing to do, but hopefully I’ll get off at each stop eventually. I was in Sloane Square on a date with my gay boyfriend Brian Galm to see “The September Issue.” The movie was amazing, eye-opening, beyond just fashion and I have now fallen even more in love with André Leon Talley. That man is insane. I’m not really into fashion, but I appreciated how every little detail of the magazine is put together. Also, I love “The Devil Wears Prada,” which was entirely not the point of this documentary at all but whatever. Speaking of amazing things, on Thursday night I saw “Mother Courage and Her Children” at the National Theatre and it was spectacular. “Spec” as in spectacle, and “tacular” as in…. hmm. Anyway, Mother Courage was played by Fiona Shaw, or as some might know her, Harry Potter’s Aunt Petunia. She literally brought the house down.

The play takes place during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th Century, but the director chose to bring it up to date with a relatively new translation, new music and modern costume. The music, provided by Duke Special and the Band was interesting and a bit strange but had a militaristic, rock-and-roll feel. I love the National Theatre because of the opportunities it gives young people to afford to see plays cheaply, practice their art and receive advice from the staff at the National. I also love how you can get into this bustling place for free to see a concert in the foyer or sit down to have a drink. It also doesn’t hurt that their carrot cake is unreal. The South Bank in general between the National and the Globe is probably one of my favorite places to be at night because there are tons of people, bright lights and you are just a step away from the water. Beautiful.

Friday night we baked chicken in the oven with a mascarpone-tomato sauce and had boiled asparagus and sweet potatoes on the side for dinner. I stayed in to watch “Pretty in Pink” with Brian and an episode of “Glee” with Ashley and Emily. I also ate an iced lemon loaf from this café called Fait Maison up the block. I will be going there often. On Saturday I was productive! Yes, I really was! I wrote a paper for my theatre class, made myself lunch (turkey and roasted red pepper on a kalamata olive roll) and went to the gym. Instead of walking to Kensington High Street to get to the gym, I took the back roads down St. Albans Grove. The combination of beer and smoked wood made these small streets smell fantastically Halloween-ish. The area is sort of artsy with a bunch of restaurants and a few cafés. There is one French café in particular that I’d like to go to one day. But speaking of Halloween, I still have no idea what I’m going to go as. I think we’re going to a Halloween party in France too. My mom said I should be a French maid.

For dinner that night Brian fried our leftover asparagus (scramble one egg, dip asparagus in egg and then roll around in salted breadcrumbs. Heat canola oil in a pan on a high heat, place asparagus in oil and remove after a few minutes. Place the fried asparagus on a plate covered with paper towel to let the excess oils seep out) and made spaghetti with pre-cooked chicken meatballs and tomato sauce. We ate in the dark of our third floor kitchen where the light no longer works, and quickly went back to our rooms to get ready.

I went with a bunch of people (including Jeff’s girlfriend Kelly who is visiting for the week!) to a club called funkybuddah near Green Park.

We had fun dancing and I met some cool people on the twenty-minute bathroom line. I guess women’s bathroom lines in clubs are payback for the fact that girls usually don’t have to pay to get in. I tried sneaking into the guy’s bathroom but one of the many security guards quickly spotted me and escorted me out toward the bar. Oh well, story of my life. We eventually went to O’Neills followed by our ritual trip to the Chinese restaurant with the picture of Mao Zedong hanging on the lime-green wall. Rebs and I split pork fried wontons and vegetable fried rice, which we later supplemented with soy sauce from our room. Today I went to the gym to make up for last night and after our movie date, Brian and I went out to this Thai restaurant down the block from our dorm. We very romantically sat by the window and gazed off into the evening sky while eating sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice. We finished off our date by eating Phish Food. We are a truly classy couple.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Weeks of Updates Plus a Little Rain

So its officially started to rain in London. I don’t totally mind the rain; it was something I was expecting when I packed my rain boots, coat and two umbrellas, and something I thought was strangely missing in August and September. October starts the “rainy season” and also, I suppose, my true experience of London. As a travel agent told me last week, “You haven’t really seen London yet.” I guess rain is part of the culture here, which I kind of like. Running from a tube stop into a café to simultaneously avoid the rain and talk with people is a good thing, I think. The rain gave Jeff and me an excuse to sit back and enjoy a delicious snack two Wednesday’s ago, but more on that later. Anyway, if being in London means watching the rainfall through a storefront window while eating a scone, well, then London is the place for me.

I haven’t posted in over two weeks (ah!) so I will try to summarize as best as I can. On Tuesday, Sept. 29, my British Life and Cultures class took a trip to Parliament.

The houses of Parliament are stunning, ornate and historic. Words can literally not describe how beautiful Parliament is. I can just say that I personally felt that the House of Lords and its subsequent rooms are more striking than the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace. What I also loved about Parliament was its traditions. The way votes are cast, the way Members of Parliament enter the building or even receive their mail. All of it seemed so ceremonial; it must be amazing to work in a place like that. After our tour of Parliament, I took a quick nap and then headed to Tuesday night Yoga with Jeff. We had chicken and vegetable stir-fry for dinner, and started to seriously discuss our travel plans for the remainder of our stay.

On Wednesday, Jeff, Rebs and I met up with Rebs’ friend Dan from home (Long Island). We grabbed some cheap Thai food before heading into the British Museum. The museum is much larger than I imagined. We gravitated directly to the Rosetta Stone, which was carefully secured behind a frame, and then walked around the Egyptian, Roman and Greek exhibits. I especially liked the Greek exhibits for its statues and busts of those from Greek mythology, and even those unknown men and women who had been represented through art. We ended our visit in the Enlightenment room that looked like an old, dimly lit library. It was filled with pieces from each of the exhibits in the museum, entertaining the idea of past work leading to future thought.

Jeff and I went to our theatre class that evening, and we all ate baked chicken with rice and broccoli for dinner. After dinner we booked our flight to Rome for early December! I am so excited to just spend the entire weekend eating amazing, amazing food.

On Thursday Jeff and I had our afternoon theatre class after which I went to the gym. On my way there I stopped into the GAP (there was a sale sign, I gravitated…) only to find that their clothes were strangely plain. I know the GAP sells some pretty basic stuff in the States, but it’s definitely one of my favorite stores. I figured their British venture would be a bit sassier. Anyway, after working out I called Rebs to let her know that Jeff and I would be going to Marks and Spencer to pick up the fixings for a Waldorf salad for dinner. I’m glad I called because, as she told me, the electricity had gone out in our entire building. We bought the ingredients anyway because we would be eating in an hour or so, and headed back. I literally took a shower with the door open in an effort not to squirt shampoo directly into my eye or accidentally cut myself with a razor. After my shower, this lack of electronics seemingly led way to a little thing called reading. Yes, I read “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” well, about a quarter of it anyway before our room got really pitch-black. We realized that even something as simple as a Waldorf salad could not be prepared under these conditions (we were also in the process of getting kicked out of the building… no electricity is a lawsuit waiting to happen), so we gathered our friends and headed to Byron. The burgers were incredible as usual and brought up my spirits after I had been squinting to read as the sun went down. We walked over to the Imperial bar and hung out until one of our friends called us to say the electricity was back. Electricity, but no internet. I think everyone went to sleep early that night.

Friday afternoon I went to the gym and then did some food shopping at Marks and Spencer now that I knew we’d have a working fridge. We ended up eating that Waldorf salad for an early dinner before Jeff and I, along with some of our friends in our theatre class, made our way over to Shakespeare’s Globe. That Friday night walking over the Millennium Bridge was almost magical. With St. Paul’s Cathedral behind us, the Tower Bridge to our left and the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre in front of us, I could taste both the River Thames and the coming of winter as we walked. As we got closer to the Globe, I could smell beer and wine, and instantly felt comfort, like I was coming home to some winter house on a lake. It’s not really something I can describe, but once you walk into the little courtyard of the Globe you feel a sense of warmth, happiness and community. Once you enter the theatre itself you begin to feel like you are part of something. The theatre was much smaller than I had imagined, but deeply beautiful with the black sky acting as a ceiling. The play we saw was called “A New World – A Life of Thomas Paine,” which was, curiously enough, written by a British playwright. I stood in the standing yard for the first half, and sat for the second (our class got split tickets, so we all swapped in between), but I really did enjoy standing. If there was a scene where one of the characters was giving a speech in front of a large crowd, actors would rush into the standing yard, pushing people aside on their way to hear the speaker. The actors would march through the yard, pass out pamphlets to the people standing and even lean on someone’s shoulder while singing a song. The play takes place about two-hundred years ago, but I felt connected not only because I was physically standing with the actors, but also because the messages were relevant. Paine was a man who believed in equality, and was quoted frequently by Barack Obama during his campaign. I think we need more people like Paine to knock some “Common Sense” into our heads, especially at a time when gay marriage may soon (and hopefully) become legal in Washington, DC. I can’t wait to go back to the Globe for a tour of the theatre with my British Life and Cultures class in a few weeks.

Rebs, Jeff and I woke up early on Saturday to get tickets to see “Avenue Q” for that night. Instead of going to tkts, we went to a half-price theatre ticket stand inside of the Leicester tube station. We got half-price tickets for “Avenue Q” and made our way over to the National Portrait Gallery. My favorite exhibits in the gallery included the Twiggy exhibit in honor of her 60th birthday, and the rooms featuring painted portraits of the royal families. We went to Pret A Manger for lunch, and I walked around Kensington High Street for a little before taking a long nap back at the dorm. I boiled broccoli, baked Brussels sprouts and heated up pre-made tortellini for dinner. We ate quickly and made it to our seats just in time for the opening number of “Avenue Q.” It was my first time seeing the show and I absolutely loved it! I also love how they serve ice cream here during intermission (hello Cookies and Cream Haagen-Dazs). It was Julie Atherton’s last night on the “Avenue Q” stage after originating the role of Kate Monster in London. I snuck in a picture of her receiving flowers, and got a picture of her and Jeff at the stage door after the show.

Once Jeff stopped freaking out over the picture, we walked over to O’Neill’s to hear the cover band of the night. We got Chinese food on the way back, and it took us an awkwardly long time to get back to our dorms. Nonetheless, when we did eventually get back to our dorms we had fried rice. Or, as they sometimes serve it here, white rice with big chunks of chicken and a teaspoon of soy sauce. I think they should call it “White Rice with Big Chunks of Chicken and a Teaspoon of Soy Sauce” instead of fried rice.

I woke up on Sunday to some nice weather, but decided to stay inside to read a bit more of the book. I think it’s interesting to learn this person’s story (he worked in a field that I am interested in myself), but he seems a little arrogant and racist. I understand that he got shunned from the world of riches and ended up working at Starbucks at 60, but I don’t understand why he keeps having these “flashbacks” of the time when he bumped into Queen Elizabeth II while reaching for a cucumber sandwich, or the time when he executed a plan to save Grand Central Station with Jackie Kennedy. The name-dropping definitely doesn’t help his “woe-is-me” case. He also constantly mentions, and is originally seemingly shocked by the fact that his boss is an African-American woman. Well, I’m sorry he never got the memo, but black people have high-powered jobs in this country! At this point I have finished the book, and I’m really not sure how much this man has learned. I think this is one of those stories that will be better told through a movie (it’s becoming a movie), and certainly better told not in his written word. Anyway, after reading for a while, I went to the gym and then to Whole Foods for a kalamata olive roll. After taking a shower, I was propped down on a chair in the third floor kitchen in front of Brian’s laptop from which I watched four episodes of “Glee.” All of my friends thought it was weird that I had not yet seen the show since I like theatre and all things glee-ish. Well, I watched it and now I am hooked. “Don’t stop believin’”

In between episodes of “Glee” from the previous night, Jeff and I decided that we’d go see the Central Perk exhibit going on at Carnaby Street. Well, as I said before it is officially raining in London, and it was seriously coming down Monday morning. Monday turned into a lazy day, but we did book our hostels for Paris and Barcelona! After we went to the travel agency, I went to the gym for this class called “Hour of Power.” The class is more of a cult than anything else. I have come to the gym on Monday nights while the class was letting out, only to see panting, but cheerful, people. The last person to exit the workout room is always the teacher who wears a shirt that reads “Hour of Power.” Makes sense. Anyway, I decided that it was about time that I became one of those panting, but cheerful, people. The class was intense to say the least, but also like a strange spiritual journey. Let me explain. The teacher shuts off all the lights in the room so that the space becomes a sort of night club, with only the blaring pink and neon lights that border the ceiling offering color to the room. The workout begins with this European techno as the teacher talks about his life and his journey to the classroom today. As the class becomes more difficult, sounds of a didgeridoo blast over the sound system, and the class ends with powerful African tribal music. I laughed for some of the class, cursed myself for going at other parts, but liked it in general. I was definitely both panting (from the workout) and cheerful (over the fact that I would be eating soon) once I left the class.

Tuesday I had class, followed by an internship meeting, Tuesday night yoga and then chicken nachos for dinner. I found out that my internship interview would be the following Monday, which I was kind of bummed out about because I knew I’d have some special guests visiting (more on that later), but I was still really excited and did a bunch of research on the company. Wednesday was a bit more eventful as Jeff and I trekked out into Piccadilly in search of the “Friends” TV show Central Perk thing I mentioned earlier. We got there and found that the line wrapped around the block. It was also raining so I took some sneaky pictures of the place as people opened the door to enter and exit, Jeff somehow won a free “Friends” t-shirt and then we were off. We walked around the back streets of Piccadilly a bit before remembering that Fortnum and Mason and the Burlington Arcade were near by. The rain did not rain on my parade that day for we discovered a land of gold in a small, quaint corner within a big, fancy hall. That place is called Laudrée.

The store is known for its large assortment of delicious, delicate and flavorful macaroons of which I picked a salted caramel, rose and orange blossom. Jeff and I sat down at a table outside of this gilded store, where we were served our macaroons and tea (I got Laudrée’s red fruit tea). It was a lovely snack in a unique location; however, nothing could prepare me for the glory that is Fortnum and Mason. I’m as Jewish as the next Long-Islander, but that place just feels like Christmas. I mean, first we walk in to this room of candies and tea. I literally get lost staring at the pastries, and then I get a call from Jeff. He is on the floor above me where they are sampling oysters. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME JEFF?” In my life, I have never run faster up a flight of stairs. I got to the top and brushed myself off a bit before calmly, but swiftly walking over to the chef’s prep station where they had prepared the oysters in two varieties for tasting. I slowly ate the baked oyster with prosciutto I had chosen with the little fork they had so kindly provided, and then, at least in my mind, passed out. Jeff awoke me when he realized that we needed to leave in order to get to class on time (who cares about class when there are free oysters to be eaten?!), and I reluctantly left the store. After theatre class, my taste buds were pleased yet again when Emily made chicken parmesan with whole what spaghetti and broccoli.

Despite all of the delicious food I ate the day before, I felt my throat beginning to hurt somewhere in the middle of dinner. I woke up on Thursday with my ears and throat aching, so I went to Whole Foods to pick up some lozenges, tea and probiotics. I was sort of upset thinking that I would not feel well enough to go to the National Theatre that afternoon, but after laying down a bit I decided that I could not miss out on the opportunity. As part of our theatre class, we were able to take a backstage tour of the National Theatre, which is comprised of three theaters, many offices, workshops, bars, eating areas, discussion areas, etc. all inside of one building. It is a seriously amazing structure but I will talk about that more in my next update. I actually can’t remember what I ate for dinner last Thursday night which is sort of strange, but this is possibly because I felt sick.

I woke up late on Friday still not feeling well, but got myself out of bed in time to watch an episode of “Loose Women” before heading to my internship site. I wanted to make sure I knew where the office was located before my meeting for the following week, so I took the tube to St. John’s Wood, found the office (as I am writing this I already had the interview and I got the internship, but more on that when it begins in November) and found a lovely little bakery at which I ate a small blackberry muffin. On my way back to the dorm, I went to Whole Foods for some chicken noodle soup and immune-boosting fresh-squeezed apple, carrot, ginger, celery, pomegranate and lime juice. I rested before dinner which consisted of a fruit salad and challah french toast, which is literally always delicious, and went to sleep early.

Saturday was a very special day involving very special people. Said people will remain unnamed as someone played hooky from work and can therefore not be revealed to the internet world. Anyway, one of my favorite things that we did during their stay was go to the Tower of London and take part in a tour conducted by a Beefeater, see the crowned jewels and a Henry VIII exhibit. I became an instant fan of this one particular Beefeater when he asked if anyone in the crowd was from Pennsylvania, after which he called them a traitor (because of William Penn), but then redeemed himself by saying, and I quote, “At least you’re not from New Jersey.” Score. We also went to the Portobello Road Market, the London Eye and Kensington Palace, as well as a bunch of delicious restaurants such as the Hare and Tortoise for sushi. One night I went with these mystery people to see “Thriller Live!” in the West End which was actually really entertaining. The dancers had the most insane energy that somehow lasted through all of Michael Jackson’s hits. One of the mystery people who came to visit profoundly stated “There is only one Michael Jackson” during the show. Thank you. Anyway, I was very sad to see these people leave and I miss them very much already.

This week is a little hectic because I’m trying to get most of my work out of the way before our break. I still cannot believe that I will be in Paris and Barcelona in less than two weeks! There will hopefully be some exciting and eventful things going on this weekend other than homework that I can blog about before my trips. Cheers!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Break Fast

Apple cinnamon scone

Yo! Sushi at Harrods 102
Pomegranate-white tea
Miso soup
Two pieces each of:
Salmon avocado roll
Salmon skin roll
Spicy chicken roll
Salmon sushi

Natural/Green Tea swirl with raspberries and mochi

I. Am. Full.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bath, Bread(s) and Asian Cuisine

Of all the places I have been to in my life, the town of Bath is certainly the most interesting. Unlike Stonehenge, where we went last Saturday before driving to Bath, I had no idea what to expect. Bath is a combination of the new and old. One moment you’re looking at some beautiful Gregorian architecture, and the next you’re standing in front of a store that sells Apple Bottoms and Ed Hardy apparel (really, Bath?). We went to the Roman Baths Museum which was literally built in and around the bath house. Just like the rest of the city, it mixed excavated structures with new ones and was both educational and beautiful. For lunch Emily, Brian, Rebs, Jeff and I went to quaint little pub where you place your order at the bar and wait a while for simple food. I had chicken Caesar salad on a baguette that was crunchy and light. We walked around this unique town only to find people in costume for the Jane Austen festival. Score! Jeff and I decided to head back a little later and spent the remainder of our afternoon in a park that looked as if it were part of a movie set, little barefoot children running and all.

The obvious choice for dinner was Ping Pong as Tom was still in town and is very specific about his Asian cuisine. My favorite bit of dinner was the duck roll I had ordered. Each roll was stuffed with perfectly crisp and juicy duck with a succulent dipping sauce to match. We walked across the street to this bar called The Elbow Room to have a few drinks and to hang out until Tom and Brian parted the rest of us to go to SoHo. Clearly.

After the gym and some lunch the following afternoon, I walked over to the Royal Kensington Gardens with Tom so that he could do at least one touristy thing before he left London. We went to the Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace before deciding that we needed some nosh before he skipped town. We cut through the park and onto High Street Kensington when Tom noticed a little French café of sorts called Le Pain Quotidien. Apparently there are several in the States, but I had never heard of it before. I dutifully entered the establishment, smelling savory, fresh-baked bread as I walked in. Thank you, Tom. I got a pot of chamomile tea and a scone with strawberry jelly and whipped butter, while Tom ordered a cappuccino and a raspberry tart. I will be coming here often. Emily made tomato sauce and pasta for dinner, and while we ate on the floor of Jeff and Brian’s room, Rebs, Jeff and I booked our flights from Paris to Barcelona and from Barcelona back to London. Finally!

Monday morning I wrote a paper for my British Media class, giving myself a break in between for a delicious Italian panini from, where else, but La Botega! There are several restaurants of the same name on Long Island, and when I told this to the owner of this La Botega, she could not stop coming up to me to ask how I felt her eatery was in comparison. Both are charming and offer an excellent variety of Italian goodies. Since we had a way to get to and from Barcelona, but no way to get to Paris, the five of us met up at the St. Pancras station to book our Eurostar tickets from London to Paris in person (Emily and Brian are going to Germany when the rest of us go to Spain). We are all booked for our mid-semester break, now we just need places to stay! After we left the station, Emily led the way to the community library on High Street Kensington so that Jeff and I could apply for a library card. I picked up a book entitled, “How Starbucks Saved My Life.” I guess you can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the girl. I went from the library to the gym with my new book in tow, and came home to find the one and only Brian Galm making beef tacos in the second floor kitchen! They came out excellent, but I definitely ate about 29 tacos worth of beef.

Tuesday only perpetuated my apparent red meat craze as my British Life and Cultures class took a trip to London’s East end for Indian food. I ordered a very tasty, but very spicy lamb and lychee concoction along with vegetable samosas and naan. The lunch was included in our program cost which made the meal even more enjoyable. After our meal was over, class was dismissed and we headed back to the dorms. Now, as you may know from reading this blog I have become somewhat devoted to this Tuesday night yoga class at the gym I go to. My throat had been bothering me all day, so I decided to take a quick nap that would hopefully rejuvenate me for the class. My nap was interrupted when I woke up to tell Rebs, in my sleep of course, that there was a spider on our ceiling. The spider, I told her, had been there the day before and she should not worry because it would crawl into the light bulb in the middle of the ceiling. Needless to say this nap did not go so well, and I unfortunately did not make it to yoga or to any other class at the gym for the remainder of the week (I’ve been taking a multivitamin and Echinacea, but they haven’t really helped). I extended my nap until the last possible moment before I had to wake up and boil water to make the rice for my fried rice with chicken: brown rice, two eggs, two bags of bean sprouts, one cup of fresh peas; one whole white onion, two cloves of garlic and two carrots, all finely chopped; two chicken breasts cooked in olive oil and then finely chopped, all topped with soy sauce. Dinner was good and I went to sleep early.

I slept in late on Wednesday and then did some grocery shopping before class to prepare for that evening’s dinner. After our evening Contemporary British Theatre class, I headed into the second floor kitchen where Emily was grilling the chicken for our salad with lime. We had been eating a lot of heavy foods, so I thought a salad with a bright dressing would be good for our bodies and spirits. For the dressing I placed one chopped mango, about one half of a cup of mango-apple juice and the flesh of two passion fruits into a saucepan, and let it simmer. After about five minutes I added salt and pepper, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a good splash of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the saucepan. I whisked all of the above together and let the mixture sit for another five minutes or so on a low heat. For the salad I added the lime-grilled chicken, one can of sweet corn, two chopped avocados, one chopped red pepper, about one half of a cup of sliced radishes and a mixture of Italian greens and Romaine lettuce to a large bowl. I tossed all of the above with the warm dressing and served immediately. The salad was really refreshing and I am definitely going to try and make it again if I can still find passion fruit.

Jeff and I had our theatre class Thursday afternoon after which we went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for dinner. In order to save our wallets and our waistlines (somewhat), Jeff, Emily, Rebs, Brian and are each assigned to one night of the week at the top of each week. Each person buys the ingredients for dinner for his or her night, spending between 20 to 25 pounds. We did this so that no one has to owe anyone money, we are aware of how much we spend on food and we still get to have one or two nights out each week. Excellent. Anyway, Jeff’s night was fish. We walked over to the fishmonger and decided to pick up baby scallops instead. We would pair the scallops with a creamy risotto. You can follow the directions on the package, but I like to heat an onion until translucent in butter and add the Arborio rice with a splash of dry white wine. In a separate pot, heat chicken stock and then gradually add the stock to the pot containing the rice until all of the stock is eventually absorbed. Fold in Parmesan cheese and you’ve got a creamy side dish or main. Once the Arborio rice was on its way to becoming risotto, I gently sprinkled the scallops with salt and pepper on either side and added them to an oiled pan on a high heat. I flipped the scallops after a minute or so and then after another minute or so I deglazed the pan with the dry white wine and served. It’s crazy to think how a meal that sounds as complicated and chic as, “Scallops and Risotto” can be so easy to make. You should try it out.

Friday morning I did laundry while watching British morning talk shows, as one does, and then walked over to Le Pain Quotidien with Jeff so that we could write a paper. Emily and Brian showed up just as we were moving out of the Facebook phase and into the pretend research phase, so that paper never got written. I had a flavorful gazpacho with a chunk of baguette and an iced red fruit tea. I also had about half of the bread basket that Emily and Brian ordered... and at least five scoops of their chocolate-hazelnut spread that came with the bread basket… and about six Collin the Caterpillar gummies that Brian got for me at Marks and Spencer. One cannot always have a “good” food day in terms of calories, but I will say that it was not a “bad” one in terms of taste. Despite my fullness, I ate a heaping plate of tortellini and salad for dinner back at our dorm in the company of some of our friends from American University. They are all here with another program and just recently arrived in London. After dinner, we all headed over to the bar at Imperial College and then out to Oxford Circus.

I woke up on Saturday having missed both breakfast and lunch, but seeing as I was determined to make both of these meals up, I went to Whole Foods with Jeff. I got a beef and cheese quesadilla with pico de gallo, and actually wrote my paper for British Life and Cultures! My brunch, as you might call it, was swiftly followed by dinner at Cha Cha Moon. I went with a bunch of other people from the program, and ate delicious shrimp dumplings as well as noodles with duck. On our way back from dinner, we got off at the South Kensington tube stop so that we could go to Snog! When you stand in Snog you feel as though you are standing inside a little Japanese computer filled with enlarged mushrooms. The ceiling is a screen that changes and the floor is made to look as if it is part of nature; the tables and chairs are the mushrooms. The yogurt, however, is not as strange as it is very similar to that of Pinkberry or Red Mango. I got a green tea yogurt with raspberries and this Japanese rice cake gummy sort of thing called mochi. The day of food ended with an evening of the critically-acclaimed movie “13 Going on 30,” which I watched and loved.

Today I went food shopping for our pre-fast feast, followed by walking around at the Regent Street Festival. The festival takes place between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus and features food, live music and several live fashion shows of which I saw one. We got there around 4p.m., only to learn that several hundred cupcakes were given out at 3p.m.! Still, I got a Belgium waffle with Nutella and sliced bananas before heading back home. Preparing dinner tonight, I sort of felt what it must be like to be my Grandma on all of the holidays during which she cooks. I made stuffing (celery, carrot, onion, apple, chicken stock and chopped bread), roasted potatoes (diced roasting potatoes, salt and pepper, dry herb mixture, fresh rosemary, olive oil and lemon) and salmon with Dijon mustard. I also bought two ready-made chickens (there is only so much stress a Jewish girl can handle the on the eve of Yom Kippur), apple sauce and angel food cake, which I served with sliced strawberries and kiwi. There were seven of us at the table (we found a table in the fifth floor kitchen so we don’t have to eat on the floor anymore!), and although only two of us were fasting, my dear friend Brian ate more than all of us combined. Right now I am about to go to sleep and wake up for services in the morning. My friend Andrew and I will be breaking our fast at Harrods. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Apples and Honey For a Sweet New Year

I’ve got about an hour before I go to Rosh Hashanah services with two-and-a-half Jews and one-and-a-half non-Jews (there’s a free meal involved), so I will try to write as much as I can as fast as I can.

Jeff and I walked over to a hostel near our dorm on Monday to check out the facilities. We aren’t allowed to have overnight guests in the dorms, so we need a plan for our significant others if they decide to come visit. On our way there we noticed a ton of paparazzi outside of the side entrance of the Natural History Museum. They were still there on our way back so we figured we might as well stick around. Jeff was bugging out thinking that Victoria Beckham was inside, so I asked a police officer if she was. He responded by saying, “Would I waste three hours of my time on Victoria Beckham? Anyway, I thought we’d shipped her out to you.” OK, so not Victoria Beckham. About five or so minutes later Prince William himself walked out of the museum in all his glory. He was there to open the new Darwin Center, and he as charming as I had imagined he would be. I started clapping as he entered his car because I didn’t exactly know what else to do. My only misfortune was that I did not have my camera on me. Later that night we went to the International Students House (ISH) for a Foundation for International Education (FIE) welcome party that included staff, professors, students and a DJ who played a “Grease” medley. We got free food and two free drinks so overall it was a good time. Plus they had a bunch of really awesome bean bag chairs.

Tuesday was our first serious day of rain since we’ve been in London. The rain thankfully stopped just as I was leaving class, but started up again as I was on my way to Tuesday night yoga. I squeaked up the stairs to the gym in my rain boots, and tried to conceal my rain garb in the corner of the classroom once I arrived. The class was awesome yet again, but I was definitely dreading the rain. The day before I had gone food shopping and I bought all the fixings for burritos. I had four hungry friends in the dorm that I wanted to try to get back to as soon as the class was over, but the rain just wasn’t on my side. As I ran flailing my hands in the air in the direction of the 49 bus on my way out of the gym, I realized that the bus was probably too full to stop even if I did reach the bus stop on time. I was correct and found myself consequently running toward the further bus stop. I later realized that I probably should have just stayed where I was in order to get the next bus, but lord knows I needed to burn those few extra calories. I finally made it back to the dorm and made five huge burritos and guacamole. As I was making the dinner, I had my little container of kitchen utensils and tools on the interior window ledge. When I went to reach for something the top came off, flew out the window, and landed on the roof of the computer lab. I was too hungry and determined to care, so I currently own a topless container. We didn’t eat until 9:30p.m., but I think we were all pretty satisfied.

I went to the gym on Wednesday before class and watched some TV special on the life of Puff Daddy while I let the StairMaster kick my ass. After writing in my theatre journal (I knew he’d ask us to write in one!), I headed over to class with Jeff only to be reminded that we were going to see a show the next night. Somehow the entire class forgot that this was happening, but nonetheless I was excited to go. We stopped into Waitrose after class to buy some sides for the chicken that Emily and Brian were making, and met a Hollister employee from North Carolina who is here to train before opening up a store in Italy. He told us that one of their stores in England is the most profitable store out of the entire company. I was wondering why so many people here have been wearing Hollister! We rushed back to the dorm in fear of the chicken being ready well before the sides, and I chopped, dropped and seasoned the potatoes we had bought while Brian chopped up the asparagus and mushrooms. The chicken was delicious as were the vegetables. After dinner Emily told me that she’d be going to the outdoor market on Portobello Road the next morning, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to go somewhere new and go to a place that I could write my paper on for British Life and Cultures. The assignment is simply to go somewhere and write about what you see, so I brought along my notebook and camera with me Thursday morning.

After getting a little lost, we finally reached a street full of amazing antique stores and thrift shops. I gravitated toward a store called Alice’s that was literally bursting with antique tea sets, seltzer bottles, sporting equipment, signs and much more. We walked further down the street and I took note of a bunch of the outdoor food and clothing vendors. My favorite stop of the day was a little place called The Hummingbird Bakery. As someone who worked at a cupcake bakery back in the States, I especially appreciated this beautiful little store featuring beautiful little cupcakes. I picked a red velvet cake that they placed in a Chinese takeout carton, and ate it while we walked back to the tube. It was absolutely delectable. It also happened to be my breakfast since the banana that I brought with me for breakfast was too mushy and brown for my taste.

Once I got back to the dorm, I quickly made a sandwich and headed to theatre class. At the beginning of the class we did a sort of playwriting workshop where we had to write a little vignette in the life of the fictional character Arnold Smith. All we know about this man is that he went to jail at some point in his life. As a Smith myself, I wrote how Arnold Smith was sent to jail in place of another Smith simply due to his last name. I think my professor found it amusing.

Thursday night we saw the play “Stockwell” at the Tricycle Theater in Brooklyn. It wasn’t actually in Brooklyn, but if you went there yourself that’s where you’d think you were. Anyway, the play was about wrongful killing of an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, after the tube bombings in 2005. The play was done verbatim style and the actors took on different roles depending on the needs of the scene. It was extremely compelling and I felt that the actors did a beautiful job.

When we got back to the dorms I threw my clothes in the wash in fear of not getting a chance to do laundry the next morning (we’ve only got four washers for the all of the students in the program, crazy…). I hung out with Jeff and Brian for a bit and we watched clips of Nene from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I went to get my laundry out of the dryer after my clothes were done, only to find them still damp. At this point it was around 1a.m. so I just went to sleep and woke up early today to put my clothes through another cycle in the dryer. I’m pretty sure I had a dream that someone stole my clothes so I was really happy to find them all in the dryer when I woke up.

Today I went with Jeff to the St. Pancras/King’s Cross Station to pick up our friend Tom who is studying abroad in Paris. After taking a picture at the fake “Platform 9 3/4,” we got lost for a bit and then found our way to Tom’s hotel.

If we had looked at a map earlier we would have realized that his hotel was pretty close to the one we went to during our first week in London. Seeing this, we decided our best bet for lunch would be at Cha Cha Moon. We all got the same crispy noodle dish with chicken and it was delicious. After lunch we went back to Portobello Road so that I could get more information for my paper and so that I could pick up some gifts for my family. Since we were already there we just had to go back inside The Hummingbird Bakery. I got an apple-caramel cupcake featuring an apple cake with caramel buttercream frosting, and took pictures of the interior of the bakery despite a sign that indicates, “No Pictures.” After spending possibly too much money and empty calories within a two-hour period, I told myself that I could not go back to this open-air market again. At least for the next week or so anyway. Now I’ve got to run to go to the Rosh Hashanah services that are taking place around the block. Tomorrow we take a trip to Stonehenge and Bath!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Semester is in Session!

I do not have bed bugs! Jeff and I were out at Ikea when someone from the building called the room and told Rebs that our mattresses are brand new. After I blogged about the situation last Sunday night, I did an even more intense Google search after which I stripped and flipped my mattress to check for the little monsters. All clear! Jeff now believes that I had those itchy bites on my arm because a Pigeon flew through the window in the middle of the night and bit me. He’s also the one who told me I had bed bug bites. Hmm.

Our trip to Ikea last Monday was extremely successful and resulted in a bright yellow chair, some pretty cardboard cases for our books, kitchen utensils and cooking tools, as well as several other items to make our room look more aesthetically pleasing. I also ate their Swedish meatballs. It’s a long walk through that showroom at Ikea, so I needed an energy boost! For dinner Monday night I made a vegetable stir-fry with whole wheat spaghetti, that Marks and Spencer chopped vegetable mix that I love so much, chicken and black bean sauce. After dinner I started freaking out about classes and tried to distract myself by looking up the Royal Family on Wikipedia for several hours. It worked.

I woke up Tuesday morning at 7:30a.m. so that I could fully prepare myself for what was to come. I hadn’t sat in a classroom in over four months and I really wanted to feel studious. As I prepared my whole wheat sandwich with Swiss cheese, humus and sliced chicken, I went over Royal Family trivia in my head. Maybe one of my teachers was going to quiz us on Her Majesty the Queen?

After prepping my lunch and eating my breakfast, I went downstairs to meet Jeff so that we could head over to Foundation House where all of our classes take place. We walked up a couple flights of stairs before entering a classroom that reeked of chemicals. Foundation House is under a bit of exterior construction right now, so if you’ve got a classroom above ground-level you’re likely to see a man in a hard hat and yellow vest working on something directly outside your window. I don’t mind the men, but I do mind that smell. Our Media in Britain professor walked in at exactly 9a.m. to tell us that he needed to make copies of the syllabus and that we had the next 20 minutes to ourselves. We walked outside to catch some much-needed fresh air, and then headed back into the classroom after the 20 minutes were up. Our professor is an extremely funny man. Before I came to London I would watch these movies or television shows with British actors in them thinking to myself, “People can’t actually speak like this!” Well, it turns out that they do. I am probably going to need a dictionary for all the adjectives that he uses as he speaks, but for now I am just going to enjoy his flamboyant speech. The class seems seriously interesting as we are going to explore different mediums by which the public are reached in Britain. I’ve learned about the BBC in classes at AU, but I know very little about other British television networks. During the break, I went up to the professor to speak with him about our final paper. We had to choose our topic that day and I’m interested in writing my final paper on the influence of British celebrity chefs in British media. We somehow got into a conversation about chefs which led to him telling me that he has interviewed both the Julia Child and Nigella Lawson. After I passed out and wept, I took my seat for the remainder of the class. Monday night he e-mailed me with a list of chefs that I should read up on while I’m here. I have a feeling I’m going to like this class very much.

After a one-hour break, Jeff and I met up with Rebs for our British Life and Cultures class. Our professor was born in England but grew up in California. He therefore has an accent that is semi-British, semi-Frasier Crane, but entirely American once he laughs or speaks for a long period of time. The class involves all sorts of trips around London including a tour of Parliament and the Globe. We discussed the importance of accent (ha!) in the United Kingdom, and how one can be discriminated against just for opening his or her mouth. I guess I get that too considering I’m from Long Island (“Do you seriously call them ah-ran-ges?”), but the stereotypes based on accent are much harsher here. Once class was over, I went back to the dorms to rest for a little before taking a yoga class with Jeff. The class was amazing and I can’t wait until the one coming up this Tuesday! After a quick shower, I met up with Jeff, Rebs, Emily and Brian for Indian food at this place named, wait for it, Little India. We got naan bread and pilau rice for the table, and I had a delicious vegetable samosa followed by chicken curry for dinner. Yum.

Jeff and I loved the yoga class so much that we decided to take another one Wednesday morning. Unfortunately I read the calendar wrong and it was a Pilates class that we really did not enjoy. We got a light lunch at Whole Foods and then went back to the dorms to get ready for our 5p.m. class. I had been freaking Jeff out about this class all week as he has not yet taken a theatre class in college and according to my experience, theatre teachers can be very eccentric. This is something that I love, but something that could definitely turn someone off who isn’t prepared. So, I did my best to give him every possible scenario of what our teacher could be like. We have the crazy scarf woman who wears eight scarves and moves them around as she speaks, we have the soul-searcher who has his students write in a journal each week to find his or her true inner meaning, and of course there is always the theatre teacher who uses complicated words that mean literally nothing once you’ve written them down in your notebook only to read them later on and think to yourself, “What the hell is this?” Now, being whacky does not make a person a bad professor, it just makes the class more interesting. Our professor is just the right sort of eccentric, I think. I’m not sure if he’s trying to be funny or if I’m just American and I love the way some of the people here speak. Now that I think of it it’s probably the latter, but it still interests me. Anyway, he’s the sort of teacher who will stand with one hand on his hip and the other cupping his chin, while both nodding his head and walking around while saying, “Yes, yes, mm, mm, mm, quite right, quite right, mm,” as a student makes a comment in class. We started the class off by going over how theatre is run in Britain, and by lightly discussing Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Now I happen to know some things about these people and their works solely because I’ve been taking theatre classes throughout college. So as I’m raising my hand Jeff is staring at me as if to say, “Are you kidding me?” He showed me his notes during our break, which read, “Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ George Bernard Shaw, Who The Fuck Cares?” At least I like the class. Once the session ended at 8p.m., Jeff and I walked over to Waitrose to buy a fully-cooked garlic-roasted chicken and some raw vegetables. I sautéed red, green and yellow peppers together with a sweet onion as a side, and we at the chicken (almost) in its entirety.

As you’ve probably noticed, Jeff and I have all three of our classes together. We do not have class on Monday or Friday (four day weekend, anyone?), but we do have a full day of classes on Tuesday followed by one three-hour session of Contemporary British Theatre each on Wednesday late afternoon and Thursday afternoon. Jeff and I went to the gym for yet another yoga class Thursday morning after which we walked to Foundation House for our second session of theatre. Jeff enjoyed this class much better than the first as we watched clips from “The Importance of Being Ernest” and “Pygmalion.” One huge bonus to taking this theatre class is that we will get to see plays at different venues from around the city for which I am very excited.

Every student in the program was given a ticket to see a West End show for Thursday night. The West End is the Broadway equivalent in London so we were all super-excited to go. I rushed to both make pasta (with sautéed butternut squash and spinach) and to get dressed with less than an hour to spare. It somehow all worked out and we made it to the Phoenix Theatre with enough time for me to by gummies. They were delicious. “Blood Brothers” was an interesting show, both extremely funny and, for some people, extremely sad. I’m not sure whether or not this was the intent of the director, but my friends and I found some of the parts that were supposed to be sad and ominous pretty darn funny. I later read online that the part of Mrs. Johnstone will be played by Melanie C, AKA Sporty Spice, starting in October. Bummer. Since we were already in Piccadilly and some of us do not have a Friday class, we decided that we should go out and explore this very touristy area of the city for the night. We were somehow lured into this tourist den called Sound. It was a horrible club that was only good for its bathroom and the back wall that kept changing colors. We left within 10-minutes and walked around a bit more before finally deciding on O’Neil’s.

O’Neil’s is a three-floor pub that has something for everyone. The place features food, drinks, music booming from the stereo and live music on the top floor. We grabbed a few drinks before my friend Lauren could get whisked away by three Irishmen, and headed upstairs just in time for the band to start. They played everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to The Fray, and we all had an unbelievable time jumping and dancing around with some locals as well as fellow Americans.

Once my feet were too tired to dance anymore (as some guy said to me, “It moust be ‘ard to walk in ‘dem ‘eels.”), I took a seat at the bar until everyone was ready to go. Then things got ugly. The only thing that I want to do after a night out is eat. The group of people I was with felt the same. Unfortunately, the restaurateurs of Piccadilly Circus are very smart and have established this little thing called a minimum amount, which is displayed in a teeny-tiny font at the bottom of their restaurant’s menus. After checking out a couple of these places someone suggested that we go to KFC. “OMG KFC SOUNDS SO GOOD RIGHT NOW!” Really, Melissa? I will try to forget that this experience ever happened. It is in the past, I have let go. Namaste.

Friday was a lazy day. I walked to the pub across the street wearing my pajamas and flip-flops so that I could get change for the laundry machine. Despite the embarrassment I successfully washed two loads of laundry. I ate our leftover pasta for lunch, watched a bunch of TV (I’m taking a media class so I’m pretty sure that just counts as homework…) and went to the gym around 6p.m. Once I got back, I went to this amazing burger restaurant named Byron with Brian, Rebs and Jeff. I literally had not had a burger in about two years before Friday night, but I’m so happy that I waited! This burger was perfection as were the fries and milkshakes. Let’s just forget the fact that I somehow managed to eat a chocolate cupcake shortly after our enormous dinner. Emily met up with us later on, and I suggested that we stay in and watch “The Holiday” since we had to wake up early the next morning. That movie just gets better and better every time, but it now has new meaning since we are in England. I think we just might plan a trip to Surrey.

It was an early rise Saturday morning as Jeff, Rebs and I were off to Buckingham Palace! We arrived early to get a good spot for the changing of the guards. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it’s crazy to think that these men and women participate in it every-other day or every day depending on the time of year.

We rushed to get lunch at this restaurant called BBar (I had a salad with BBQ chicken, blistered tomatoes, avocado, mixed greens and an avocado-mayonnaise dressing), so that we could be back for our 1p.m. tour of the Palace’s 19 state rooms. After going through security, we were each given a little remote and a pair of headphones through which we could hear a lovely British woman describe what we were seeing as we saw it. Naturally, the interior of the Palace was stunning and is in unbelievable shape considering its ripe age. According to that British voice, little renovation has been done in terms of the wall colors and original moldings and furniture, and as I noticed small chips here and there I sort of appreciated how they have kept things the same.

My favorite part of the tour was the room where the Queen’s dresses from her various tours throughout the Commonwealth of Nations were displayed. The room also included gifts received by the Queen during these tours. The gifts were grand, mundane, extravagant, or dull, but as the little voice told me, “The Queen appreciates all of the gifts she receives and finds a home for them all.” Another highlight of the tour was a room through which the Queen can enter via a secret door. There was a large mirror and cabinet blocking the door, and as the voice told me, the items on top of the cabinet have been secured so that they will not fall over as she enters or exits the room. The rooms were generally deep red with gold detailing in the ceiling, but I especially enjoyed walking through this one room that was a striking turquoise. Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures while walking throughout the state rooms, but we did take pictures in the garden behind the Palace. The exit out of Buckingham Palace conveniently led into a gift shop where one could buy royal things such as pens and magnets. Our final part of the tour was a walk through the garden past a plethora of trees and plants as well as a pond or two. The path led us to some street exit, and while we tried to figure out where we were we decided that we were hungry. We stopped into a small café for a Belgian waffle with nutella. Yum. Although very tired, we knew that we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather and we headed toward the River Thames. While we had seen the sights around this area already on our bus tour, the buildings were much more beautiful without the bus’s glass window in the way. We took a bunch of pictures of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Brian Haw’s Peace Camp, the London Eye and the River Thames.

Whew! When we were too tired to go on, we headed back to the dorms for a much-needed nap.

Two hours later I woke up extremely nauseous, so I decided not to go out to dinner with Rebs and Jeff. They went to an Italian restaurant down the block and brought me back some garlic bread which I graciously ate in one fell swoop as I was miraculously cured from my nausea due to the smell of garlic… clearly. We then met up with Emily and went over to the Imperial Bar that was open until 1a.m. because it was the final evening of the Proms. We sat outside and had a great time enjoying the company and excellent weather. I came back only to eat some delicious Cadbury confection out of the vending machine on the first floor of our building, and fell asleep after many unsuccessful attempts to buffer an episode of “The Rachel Zoe Project.”

I had a hard time waking up this morning due to a sequence of very strange, but short dreams that I had. One of them involved some sort of family function where everyone in my family was dressed crazy with big hair and way too much blush. Odd. Once I finally woke up, Jeff and I went to the gym for a while and then walked over to Whole Foods for lunch. I came back extremely motivated to write this very, very long blog entry (my apologies!), but I did stop somewhere in the middle to go to the very fabulous Gay Pride Festival in SoHo and then out for dinner at Chiquito in Leicester Square. I am currently in a food comma after sharing a platter of Mexican food with Emily and I’m not entirely sure how I am even writing coherently now. I think I’m going to rest a bit and do some reading for Tuesday.