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Monthly Archives: April 2012

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I’m still swaying with a heady enchantment over the 4-day Easter weekend spent in Scotland with Will’s family. On Thursday afternoon we left work at 5pm, dashed to King’s Cross with our baggage — mine filled with practical yet presentable clothes, a springform cake pan to make an Easter cheesecake with, a wrapped-up bottle of Laurent Perrier rosé champagne to give as a gift, and a zip-pocket full of anxiety — and just 5.5 hours later we were out of the bustling city and surrounded by fresh soothing scenery of rolling green hills.

My idea of paradise isn’t a beach with azure waters, sandy sand and palm-treeish palms under a blazin’ hot sun. My idea of peace and relaxation is Scotland — idyllic countryside in a sea of fresh green grass, freshwater lakes (or, since we’re north — “lochs”). Woods to roam, hills to hike and drink in the scene below. Just enough of a dewy snap in the air temperature to instigate lots of canoodling under warm fleece blankets near the fireplace, or bundled up on the porch with a tumbler of watered whisky while drinking in the lake view.

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Up in Clunie, Perthshire — north of Glasgow and Edinburgh — we took walks every day, played golf and cooked delicious lunches and dinners. There was too much chocolate, everywhere and in all shapes, bakes and form (that ain’t a complaint).

It sounds like there isn’t much to do, no sights to tick off a jam-packed guidebook. That’s kind of the point — this is a real vacation, one where you can vacate your mind of the stresses of city and work life, which seem so far away and so inconsequential when you’re faced with the beauty of the land. And what therapy could be better than home-cooked meals (and a bountiful pantry and fridge) shared with family, rather than stressful restaurant-h(a)unting?

Having sung my praises, here’s the downside: it’s no fun if you don’t have your own home there or don’t know a good friend who does. Scotland can be really remote — I barely saw another face aside from our group the whole weekend! — an having your own place means having somewhere really comfortable to return to if it starts raining, or if you’ve had enough of the outdoors and just want to sit on the couch with a hot cup of tea, cookies and the U.S. Masters (golf) on the telly. And you need a car. It would be very difficult to wind down as comfortably if you had no car, and stayed at a dinky bed-n-breakfast not near a scenic lake, as Will’s house is.

So the top tip here is: see which of your friends’ parents have countryside houses, get on their good graces, and then move in. That last procedure is my current fantasy. But if you can’t get there, hope you enjoy these photos.

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Hola,

I’ve been terrible at posting but brilliant at documenting. Oh, and, if you were about to guess, I’ll just say that YEAH, it’s a post about food.

It’s pretty obvious if you look through my iPhone’s photo album, my life is documented by pictures of shared meals. This is no surprise to anyone with some semblance of typical social life. When you get out of the office, the evening is yours to convene with friends who are also freed from their shackles. And, oh, it’s dinner time too.

There are always many restaurants on my list that I want to try, and my way of justifying the expenses is to kill two birds with one stone and get my quota for social-time in, too. Wait, is that just wrong of me — which is the means to the end, friends or food? Well, the beauty is how innately tied the two are. While sometimes I do seem to “use” my dear dear friends to be my restaurant posse, food is the medium through which conversation, shared experience and memory join. Also, mmm, mmm.

Below, some memorable meals I’ve shared (and put away, if you will), the experiences and what they have meant to me:

Saturday Night: the 3-hour wait at Burger & Lobster, rewarded. Met old friends and new ones while first bonding in waitlist solidarity at a nearby pub, then bonding over our hard-earned lobster fest (at, finally, 10:30pm), then, recharged, ended up dancing all night at the Playboy Club (strangely not a sleazy place at all — actually a lot more demure than most sweaty clubs in London…). Yumfun.

Sunday brunch at Sandy and Joe’s — and baby Esmé. Met friends-of-friends, a slightly older crowd of still very fun, bright and entertaining expat Americans, so while I felt a bit out of place being 10 years younger than everyone (or was it the massive hangover that was giving me an out-of-body experience?), it was still a comforting and fun circle to plop around the couch with. Oh and, by the way, a fabulous Sunday brunch spread of oven-cooked scrambled eggs (18 eggs in total, for 8 people!), smoked salmon, Mexican barbecoa (braised ox cheeks tacos, a trad Mex breakfast), lemon-rosemary cake, cinnamon buns, scones, lots of clotted cream and jam! Faint. 

Cute sock, babay.

Date Night: The (Formerly) Doomed Carribbean Place!

Ever since BEFORE Will and I were dating, he’d wanted to take me to a this “amazing” Caribbean restaurant in Camden (called the Mango Room). Every time we scheduled it for a Wednesday, but EVERY time, something came up unexpectedly — ie., Contemporary Art Evening Sale at work, for which I had to stay in the office til 10pm. After 4 months it was time to give it another try. And… we got there! Our first date night. I overcame my fear of sweet cocktails with a phenomenal Piña Colada, and had a traditional Jamaican “saltfish and ackeee” to start, goat curry for main. Mm, gamey goat goat. Now that we’ve broken the spell with a successful night out, what’s next?!

Saltfish with Ackee

Saltfish with Ackee

Goat Curry

Goat Curry

Oyster at the Market

My friends Warren and Irene came to visit me at my cake stand at Sloane Square market and grab some good market grub. The current winner is the oscure Peruvian stall shoved behind all the other stalls. Hidden gem — they make a dang good meal of char-grilled chicken and pork and creamy beans, seasoned with cilantro and other spices, atop a bed of fluffy quinoa. How do I know, even though I’ve never ventured there to buy one? They go and buy different lunches, and we reconvene at my stall and share bites with each other. The cakes are on me 🙂

Another favourite is a now-ritual we do — get a plate of freshly shucked oysters from the Maldon Oysters truck. W’s favourite is with a squeeze of lemon and black pepper; mine is sherry vinager with tiny diced onions. We clink the oysters’ jagged edges to each others’ and shoot em down — a pre-shooter for potential Saturday late-night fun.

Celebrating La Vie en Londre

A girl from highschool at Lawrenceville, Vicky, was in town so we thought we’d get a little Lawrenceville reunion together. Karl (blonde one), Justin, Vicky and I are only a year apart. We weren’t friends in high school, but now that everyone’s “grown up” it made no difference. It was fun to reconnect, especially in a country far away from where we’d all started — which as it turns out, is for all four of us NEW JERSEY. Four New Jerseyans in London…

I chose the Windmill pub, one of London’s few remaining, absolutely charming and old-school pubs. It’s on Mill Street, right off of Regent’s Street. They supposedly have award-winning pies and I thought it’d be great to celebrate our being here with some classic British grub. My Shepherd’s Pie  was hands-down the winner — served bubbling hot in its own mini casserole dish, topped with broiled cheese and leeks….

I’ll leave at it that for digestive purposes….

What was the last big meal out you had, and how was it enhanced by the friends you had enjoying it with you?

In the pipeline — This Easter four-day weekend I’ll be way oop North in Scotland with Will’s family. I can’t wait to get some me some nature, peace and quiet, fresh clean air and some cheesecake-baking too. Will update for my first Jane-style travel post!

Patience, people, patience.
I just got back from skiing in France this morning and will start writing on Amsterdam in the next few days, but some winding down is necessary.

I wonder what songs you all grow up listening to? For me, its a mixture of Disney tunes, good ol’ sixties tunes which my Mom loves, some Celtic and irish music here and there, and some classic Canto pops.

So while I was lounging in our apartment apres-ski with mes amis, we shared what’s on our iTunes. I remember I had some songs that I hadn’t incorporated. And guess what I digged out, a complete set of  what I call my childhood comfort songs sitting silencely (neglected by me) in one of my music folders.

I remember a young self, who must be no more than 5 or 6 years old, wearing matching T-shirts with my sister, sitting in the back seat of our family car, dozing off to the breeze of the Hong Kong countryside and the warm and upbeat music of our parents’ favourite.

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Yesterday Once More – The Carpenters

Rivers of Babylon – Boney M

I Swear – All4One

Hotel California – Eagles

What’s your childhood favourites? Do share! And I wish you all a great Sunday evening! 🙂

Until then,

xoxo