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.