Category Archives: Cocktails

{ Slate Bleu } ***

Escargot en Croute
100 South Main Street
Doylestown Pa 18901
215.348.0222

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My friend Liz and I constantly find ourselves asking the question, “where should we go for dinner tonight?” We live in a small town with fairly limited dining options, which leads us to frequent the same four places over and over again each week: Domani Star, Ooka, M.O.M.s, and Quinoa. But tonight we were longing to break out of our little routine so we ventured to try the French restaurant Slate Bleu.

It is by no means new to the neighborhood—if fact, it has established a sort of cult following—but it always falls of my radar because its location is slightly hidden. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

Tonight we arrived without a reservation and found ourselves seated without a problem in the elegant downstairs dining area (I prefer this downstairs bar area to the upper tier dining room, which is a bit more removed from the pulse of the restaurant). The décor is very chic and modern, and lends itself well to an impressive first-date kind of place.

After looking over the cocktail list, I decided to try the Bourbon St. Ginger on the rocks, made with Elderflower liquor, bourbon, and a splash of ginger ale ($9). The slight fizz was refreshing, but the drink was definitely potent. I also recommend the Frozen Grapefruit Martini made with absolut vodka, dry vermouth, sorbet, and grapefruit segments ($13). It is certainly pricey, but so unique and delectable that it can commend the price point.

To start we ordered the Salade Ardoise with mixed greens, figs, French bleu cheese, Prosciutto, pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette ($12.50). We had the intentions of sharing the salad, but ordered a second to each have our own after the first bite! The bleu cheese was excellent and the figs were so good with the salty ham and vinegar.

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The Escargot en Croute, a classic French appetizer of snails with garlic and herb butter baked in pastry ($12.50), was also very tasty. It was my first experience with escargot and I expected to be leery about the texture, but the flakey and buttery croute provided enough contrast for me to enjoy them. Caution: there is a TON of garlic used in the making of this dish!

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For dinner I ordered the Thai Steamed Mussels with coconut, ginger, and lemongrass with a side order of fries ($15.50). I found the broth bland because they used coconut water instead of coconut milk. I thought it was a bit too light without the creamy component, but the mussels themselves were nice and plump. The fries were also excellent!

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Liz had an order of the Chicken Paillarde with artichokes, nicoise olives, and saffron risotto ($14.50). She is a risotto kind of girl due to her gluten free diet, and she claims that this is the best risotto that she has ever had. As for the rest of the dish, chicken is chicken….

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Since my initial visit, I have gone back and tried the Bar Steak Au Poivre, which is a pepper encrusted petit NY steak served with fries ($20.50). I was terribly disappointed by the steak, which I requested at medium rare temp and was served more than well done. The piece of meat shrank down to nothing, but I was so hungry that I continued to eat after bringing it to my server’s attention. Unfortunately, they did nothing to rectify the situation, which I found to be a bit of a turn off and I certainly won’t suggest that anyone order a steak there. The French are infamous for under cooking their beef, so to be served so well done is a bit odd.

Steak Au Poivre

Overall, I like the idea of going back for a nice meal at the bar with a friend or on a date. Get a cocktail and either a cheese platter or one of the lighter menu items to share. I would try the mussels in traditional white wine garlic sauce next time, and steer clear of steak.

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Filed under Baking, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Dessert, French Restaurants, Gluten Free, Lunch Spots, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ El Vez } *****

 Chicken Chopped Salad1
 
121 S 13th Street (on corner of Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.928.9800

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No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!

Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).

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I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!

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#I’mNotPrettyWhenIEatMexican

My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)

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(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).

Guava Mojito 

I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.

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As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).

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It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!

Carnita Pork Steak Spicy Chicken

I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.

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Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!

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If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!

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Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.

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This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!

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{ Yerba Buena: Savory Brunch } *****


Huevos Rancheros
 
212.529.2919
23 Avenue A
New York, NY
{ Lower East Side  – between Perry and Greenwich Ave)

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Brunch is a time-honored tradition in Manhattan. And I must admit–with slight guilt–that it is also one of my favorite meals to partake in when I visit the city. My girlfriends and I usually put a “brunch plan” in place at the pre-game Saturday night, and then on Sunday morning the first person to arrive at the destination watches as the rest of the group arrives in increments, dressed like refugees from the night before. Might I suggest that you wear your over-sized sunglasses and take your Advil though, because brunch is becoming so popular amongst us yuppies, that you may find yourself waiting in line on a sidewalk for upwards of an hour before being seated (damn you, Il Bastardo...).

Now there are two different approaches that one can take when choosing a brunch spot: the first is a bottomless boozey brunch centered around socializing and possibly even dancing on table tops, the second is a food-centric brunch where the objective is obtaining a delicious and filling meal that combines the best elements of breakfast and lunch. As a foodie, I am partial to the latter and Yerba Buena (YB) is one of my favorite places to enjoy a savory (and usually spicy!) mid-day meal. If the previous night was well-oiled then a mimosa or bloody Maria is necessary, and YB does offer an unlimited cocktail cocktail hour for just $15. I am not a huge fan of their Sangria, but I do LOVE the Poquito Picante cocktail made with bulldog gin, jalapeno-infused cointreau, cilantro, cucumber, and lemon juice ($12). It is refreshing, spicy, and very unique to YB (just make sure to pull the floating red pepper out before the drink gets too spicy!!).

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Things you should definitely order include:

1. The homemade Chips and Guacamole seasoned with Chipotle and Queso Fresco ($10), It is a great starter for the table and guarantees that tense group moment when you get down to the last chip.

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2. The Huevos Rancheros which is a thin crispy tortilla, topped with black beans, charred tomato, cascabel salsa, queso fresco, and two fried eggs ($13). Pop those yolks and soak up that runny goodness with each and every forkful. The dish is satisfying and a great value for the price. One of my all-time favorite takes on huevos rancheros.

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3. The Cachapa Eggs Benedict prepared with sweet corn cake, asadero cheese, poached eggs, serrano ham, and a Yerba Buena-aji amarillo hollandaise ($14). I am not normally a fan of eggs benedict, but this unique spin on the classic is exciting and delicious.

Cachapa Eggs Benedict

4. Finally, if you want something starchy, I recommend the Pan Dulce which combines sweet and savory flavors to create a hybrid dish between a French Croque Monsiur and French toast, with overriding South American flair. It is french brioche toast, with melted manchego cheese, dulce de leche sauce, and fresh bananas. Need I say more?

Pan Dulce

The service is also attentive and pleasant. More importantly, they aren’t rushing you from your table to turn it over for the next guest, despite the tiny dining room space!

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Filed under Bakery, Breakfast, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Lunch Spots, Mexican Restaurants, New York Restaurants

{ Wishbone in Brixton } ***

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Unit 12, Coldharbour Lane
London SW9 8JX, UK
+44   20-7274-0939

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Fried chicken is quintessential American food. As a tourist in London, I was on the hunt to experience all things un-American so I was pretty disappointed when my friend–a London native–suggested we visit a fried chicken joint for my final lunch in the city. However, in my effort to be a low-maintenance visitor, I kept quiet and braced myself  for some dirty, deep fried, dude food.

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When we finally arrived at Wishbone, I was pleasantly surprised by the modernized, no-frills, hipster vibe. Could this be posh fast food? Fuck yea. I was now pumped for some fierce hot sauce and finger-lickin’ fun.

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All-natural, free-range chicken is the Wishbone hallmark, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this stuff is healthy or good for you food. No, no, no….these are meaty chicken thighs, double coated in bread crumbs, deep fried to a rich golden crisp, served in the style of your choosing: Korean, Thai, traditional Buffalo, or the Moorish Salt N’ Pepa.

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I kept things simple, opting for the traditional Buffalo style with tangy hot sauce and served with side of creamy bleu cheese dressing. The buffalo sauce was blatantly rich, with pools of butter collecting at the bottom of my paper lined wing basket. And although I thought the chicken itself was moist and delicious, I found the sauce a bit too tangy–it begged for the blue cheese to tone down the vinegar.

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To “cleanse” my oil-saturated palate, I nibbled on bites of Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese. They sound aggressive and trust me, they are. After eating just one square–and four come to a serving--I knew they were a bad idea.

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It never ceases to amaze me how extreme hipsters are when it comes to their food habits. Either they’re preaching vegans or absurd junk food artists, creating unique delicacies by combining multiple bad-for-you items using only the best artery-clogging processes (i.e. deep fried oreos, french fry burger buns, chocolate covered bacon strips, and poutine pizza). These fried mac ‘n’ cheese squares are the epitome of a hipster snack–highly indulgent and bordering on sickly.

Although I enjoyed the meal while seated at Wishbone, I can’t say I enjoyed the 10 minute walk back to the car. I felt extremely lethargic and downright greasy from the inside out. It wasn’t until 3 cigarettes and an espresso later that my body returned to normalcy.

Overall, I think that Wishbone is a great, simplified, food concept but I opt for chick food over dude food any day. And how posh can a piece of fried chicken really be after all?!

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Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Fast Casual Food, Gluten Free, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots, Markets, Take-Out

{ Yauatcha in Soho, London }

R0062306

15-17 Broadwick Street
London, W1F 0DL
+44 20-7494-8888

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By my third night in England, I was craving sushi. I googled a handful of different Asian hot spots throughout the city but was unable to snag a last minute reservation before 11:30 pm. This may not have posed a problem for a posh English chick looking to grab a light bite before the club, but for my hungry American ass….no can do! I needed food and I needed it fast, so I settled for the first Asian restaurant that I could get into:  Yauatucha in Soho.

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Yauatucha is a Michelin star-rated Chinese restaurant, specializing in dim sum. I would also argue that they specialize in the art of perfect cocktails, with unique recipes and beautiful garnishes for the glass. The specialty cocktail list is longer than most restaurants’ a la carte menu! After much deliberation, I opted for a Black River Martini, made with Johnnie Walker Black label, apricot liqueur, Drambuie, blackberry and apple juice (£10.30). It was the perfect blend of strong liquor and sweet fruit–a little dangerous, might I add!

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Choosing from the extensive dim sum menu is a rather difficult task. All of them are incredibly original, fusing flavors from the East and West in little dough balls that keep you longing for just one more bite. My personal favorite was the Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puff with Pine Nuts (£5.50). 

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Let me break it down for you: Melt-in-your-mouth roasted duck and pine nuts stuffed inside sweet and sticky pumpkin rice, deep fried to a golden perfection, and topped with delicate greens to make the dough ball resemble a pumpkin! This is certainly not traditional dim sum, but it damn sure is memorable.

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Next in the plate rotation was a more traditional steamed dim sum with Spicy Pork Szechuan and Peanuts (£4.60). If this had come to the table first, I probably would have loved it, but it seemed so uninspiring following the decadent Pumpkin Puff. It was tasty, but boring and predictable.

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The final appetizer to arrive at the table was the Prawn and Beancurd Cheung Fun. I’ve never had cheung fun before so I didn’t gravitate towards it on the menu, but the waiter convinced me to order it, claiming that it was one of his favorite meals. I was disappointed and thought the dish was barely mediocre, with too much prawn filling and too little rice noodle. I didn’t love the way that the textures came together, but I am glad to say that I tried it.

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I’m all about symmetry, so to follow my 3 rounds of appetizers, I decided to keep things in balance by ordering 3 main plates. I am obsessive….I am aware.

I’ll start with my favorite of the three entrees, which was the Mongolian Style Venison with Butter and Black Pepper Sauce (£20.50). As a Pennsylvania resident, venison tends to conjure up images of the Poconos mountains and my Uncle poking fun at reindeer stew. It is not a protein that would consider a delicacy or decadent. Again, the waiter persuaded me into ordering this dish and boy did  he redeem himself for the Cheung Fun mishap! The meat was lean and well seasoned, and the veggies were crisp and bright. The black pepper sauce was rich but complimented the tender venison.

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Up next was the Stir-fry Rib Eye Beef in Black Bean SauceI thought the meat was good, but the sauce was way too salty. I found  myself washing down each bite with a large gulp of water to rinse out the sodium. Skip the bean curd.

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Lastly, I tried an order of the Stir-Fry Vermicelli with Prawn and Squid (£10.30). I had high hopes for this traditional noodle dish, but they fell flat because the seafood was almost non-existent. There were two or three baby prawns and only a handful of squid. The noodles had great flavor and it made for a nice side to the rich meat entrees, but I wouldn’t suggest ordering this as one’s main dish.

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Overall, I would definitely go back but just for the exotic cocktails and inventive dim sum! The over-priced entrees are hardly worth it and limit the number of flavors that you can experience during your meal.

 

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Filed under Asian Cuisine, Bars, Cocktails, Dessert, Gluten Free, International Restaurants, London Restaurants

{ Bowman’s Tavern } ****

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1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-2972
 

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I am definitely NOT a creature of habit; I am the antithesis of anything routine, especially when it comes to my food! I like exotic meats, unusual vegetables, and all kinds of different ethnic cuisines. But provided that I live in a small town with limited dining options –only 114 according to Trip Advisor–I have inevitably become a regular at some of my more preferred restaurants. There’s Domani Star for Sunday brunch, El Tule for my Latin American cravings, and Ooka for my sushi fix.

Lately though, my parents have been frequenting a restaurant that I’ve never visited. They go at least once a week on their “date night” or bring friends for a casual dinner and drinks. I wanted to find out for myself what all the hype was about, so tonight I begged them to change their reservation for two into a both for three! They agreed and thus I had my first–of what will become many–meals at Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope.

The food earns 5 stars and the value for what you pay deserves 6 stars. Factor in the cozy atmosphere and the pleasant service, and you’re looking at a fabulous dining experience. To top it all off, there is a very active owner circulating the dining room to ensure that all of his guests are tended to and happy with their food.

To start I ordered this weekend’s special Salad with Pickled Maitake, Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic Vinaigrette, and White Truffle Oil ($10). The portion was a bit smaller than the other salads I saw leaving the kitchen, but it was very tasty. The goat cheese and the roasted beets were plentiful, and the pumpkin seeds added a beautiful bit of crunch to the dish. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of truffle flavor in the salad. I did not taste this ingredient at all, but the salad certainly did not taste bland without it.

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We also ordered a plate of the Semolina Crusted Calamari topped with Garlic Aioli, and Spicy Cherry Pepper Relish, with a side of House Marinara ($9). These were hands down THE BEST fried calamari that I have ever had because of the spicy cherry pepper relish. It really brought a new spin to the traditional fried appetizer, and the semolina breading was delicious. These are reason enough to return to the tavern!

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For my entree I ordered the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels in Garlic White Sauce ($10). The mussels themselves were meaty and plump, but I thought that the sauce was a little bland. It needed some more garlic, lemon, or shallots, or parsley. My parents have had the mussels in red sauce and said that they were much better, so I would recommend the tomato herb broth to those of you ordering the bivalves! I will restate though that quality of the mussels were beautiful though, and not a single one in the heaping bowl was closed!

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My mom ordered the winning dish of the night, which was the Seared Scallops over Creamed Corn, with Roasted Mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Salad ($23). The truffle oil was added in just the right quantity without overpowering the dish, and the scallops were just unreal. They had a lovely, golden, caramelized exterior with a tender and creamy inside and the sweet corn underneath made for a perfect compliment to the protein. The mushrooms were used sparingly but they were packed with flavor and so each forkful that contained one was treasured.

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My dad ordered one of the specials, which was a Grilled Mako Shark, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Beans, Broccoli Rabe, Pesto, and Romesco Sauce ($23). The shark was tender and well-seasoned, especially when combined with the pesto and Romesco sauces drizzled on the plate.

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The place is great during winter months because it is warm and cozy inside, and they have live music performers that effectively draw in the crowd, inviting guests to come up, sing, and dance. It is just an all around homey place with friendly service and top notch food at a great value!

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{ Sketch Restaurant in London: The Gallery }

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9 Conduit Street
London WIS 2XG
+44 (0) 20 7659 4500

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I rarely save obligatory tourist sights for my last day when traveling in a new city. And this is a rather difficult feat for me, provided that I am, by nature, a procrastinator in all other aspects of my life. I quit procrastinating in travel, however, after my recent trip to Barcelona—a city that I must revisit since I left without ever laying eyes on Parque Guell. I saved that monumental attraction for my final day in Spain, spending the rest of my time (and money) on binge drinking and partying down by the notoriously shitty beach. I planned to visit Picasso’s masterpiece on June 31st, before flying out to Prague. But the 31st never came because there are only 30 days in June, and thus I left the city with a month-long hangover, very little cultural enrichment, and hardly and cash.

Since then, I have made it a point to get my sightseeing done first. But due to the limited space and late reservations, I was forced to save the London Eye experience for the last night of my trip…which turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, because it was the perfect note to end my trip upon! I also indulged in one of the most incredible meals of my life after seeing the beautiful views of London from the top of the Eye.

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Where did I dine, you ask?

9 Conduit Street in Mayfair, London.

If you are into food, art, fashion design, or architecture, then you may be familiar with the address. The opulent townhome has served as the headquarters for the Royal Society of British Architects, the atelier of Christian Dior, and is currently home to the 2 star Michelin-rated French restaurant run by Executive Chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Even if French food isn’t your cup of tea, if your pockets are deep enough, I suggest that you at least pay a visit to check out the unique ambiance. The décor is parallel to none; with each room in the space taking you on a journey that is evocative of trippy dream. There are three different dining rooms—each one offering a different menu and price point—as well as two ultra posh cocktail lounges. The whole venue is a riot of color and an onslaught to the senses. But the loud and quirky design makes this Michelin restaurant feel, dare I say, comfortable?!

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After studying all of the menus, I chose to dine at the Gallery, which is the more informal restaurant space with more reasonably priced menu items. British artist, Martin Creed, has transformed the space into a serviceable museum of modern art with eclectic chairs and one-of-a-kind dinnerware.

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To start, I ordered the Chestnut Velouté with white truffle oil, and pan-fried squid sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes (£15). It was velvety, rich, and every bit delicious. I cleared the bottom of my bowl with the trio of freshly baked breads that were brought to the table (£4).

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The second appetizer that I tried was the Dublin bay prawn tempura with haricot beans and aubergine, accompanied by an Osframpi sauce (£25). The prawns were delicious but sadly, there were only three of them—typical French portions! I didn’t expect the vegetables would also be deep fried, and I found them a bit bourgeois in contrast to the otherwise haute cuisine. The osframpi sauce was magical, however, due in part to the fact that I’ve never tasted one before. Essentially, it is a puree of wild berries balanced with some sort of lemon acidity to cut the sweetness. I did not use it for the prawns, but rather as a spread for the breadbasket.

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For my entrée, I ordered the Cannon of lamb roasted en crépine, Niçoise socca, swiss chard pomponette (£28). The lamb was cooked to perfection and the sauce dressing the plate was to die for, but I have had better cuts of meat before. I cleared the plate none-the-less, which easy to do at a French restaurant—oftentimes in just two bites!

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To accompany my main dish, I ordered a side of the homemade pumpkin and chestnut gnocchi (£6), which were fabulous. They were so delicate with all of the vegetables minced into perfect little cubes, and the pasta was browned on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside.

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There was little hesitation when it came to choosing a dessert; naturally, I opted for the chocolate one: Sketch Chocolat, which is a dark chocolate box filled with vanilla cream, nougatine, dried fruits, caramel syrup and coffee genoise. On the side, of the box was a little shooter filled with pistachio ice cream with pineapple and mango coulis (£10). I also got the suggested after-dinner drink, The Whisk Away, made with Laphroaig Whisky and Kalua (£7). The coffee notes in the dessert and cocktail complimented one another beautifully.

All in all, Sketch is about the experience: the art, the atmosphere, the service, the exotic bathrooms! Sure, the food is very, very good, but it is the ambiance that is over-the-top. I would certainly return, possibly in some high heels next time, with slightly lower expectations of the food.

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Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Cupcakes, Dessert, French Restaurants, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots

{ The Crabtree in London } ****

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020-7385-3929
Rainville Road, London
W6 9HA

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I arrived in London around 11 am on a Sunday morning after a long 10-hour traveling experience without eating any food. Needless to say, I arrived in London hungry and ready to begin my food chronicles. My first meal was a proper Sunday Roast from The Crabtree in Fulham, which is a quaint and cozy little spot with a traditional English menu. The three roast options included: chicken, beef, and pork belly. I went for the beef with horseradish sauce, while my friend opted for the heavier pork belly with applesauce. Each was served with a Yorkshire pudding and gravy, roasted root vegetables, a stewed red cabbaged, and pureed butternut squash.

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Unfortunately, I was so hungry that I devoured mine without actually taking the time to process all of the flavors, so there isn’t much to say other than the fact that it was delicious. I cleared the plate within a few short minutes, excited to cross Yorkshire pudding off the “to-eat” list for London. One down, and twenty or so to go!

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I did love the atmosphere of the place though, especially as it was fitted out for Christmas with a beautiful tree and all sorts of lighted Holiday decorations. The bar seemed like a cozy place to grab a drink in the winter and during the summer months, they have a gorgeous outdoor patio equipped with grills for barbequing.

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Filed under International Restaurants, Cocktails, Cafe / Bistro, Bars, Take-Out, Lunch Spots, Brunch, Breakfast, London Restaurants

{ The Borough Market in London }

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Whenever I go into a city, I feel pressured to eat—and drink—just about everything in sight. In a brief two-block stroll, I can usually find time to eat a pastry, sample a gelato, snack on an over-priced French macaron or chocolate, down a cup of fancy coffee, and possibly even grab a cocktail of some sort. It’s down right impressive, albeit slightly sickening to my friends that are forced to dip into every corner shop café with me!

Why does the city send me into this preposterous food frenzy, you ask?

Because I am from the suburbs!! The suburbs of Philadelphia, no less: a place where good food requires some serious gas mileage and planning. You can’t find an authentic Italian restaurant, a crab shack, a sake lounge, and an artisanal chocolatier all within the same one-mile radius! If you want Indian, you drive to Iselin, NJ. If you want Italian, you drive to South Philly. If you want French, you’re shit outta luck. My point is, that you’re driving if you want to get good ethnic foods. So when I see Cambodian sandwiches, ramen, French pastries, and kebabs all within the same street, I get beside myself and feel the urge to try it all simply because it is there!

My most recent trip to London kept me eating around the clock because of the seemingly endless number of cafes and pubs, each one more adorable than the next. I plan to give a full review each meal, but I want to start off with my absolute favorite food experience in London, which doesn’t take place in a restaurant at all, but rather an open-air food market called the Borough Market.

My idea of heaven is an endless Borough Market where every vendor has free samples and they don’t judge you for taking more than one, instead they encourage it! The food is free, and it has no caloric value, and you never feel full so you can just keep on eating, and eating, and eating. #FatGirlProblems

The Best Prepared Meal Item: Thai Green Curry Paella with Chicken & Seafood over Rice. I did my research on the market before going (aka Googled the shit out it to see what other bloggers were saying!) in so that I could make an informed decision on what to eat once I got there. I read that the Paella place was one of the best, and I can confirm that it was better than some seafood dishes I had in Spain. It was creamy and flavorful and the rice was tender without being mushy. A food experience that was borderline otherworldly.

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The Best Cheese: The Borough Cheese Company’s 15 mo. aged Comte

It was the first cheese we sampled going into the market, and we continued to go back for more samples until we found ourselves just pounding down his entire platter one sample after another. Then it got awkward and we decided we were obligated to make a purchase, which was noshed down that same evening. I ate it like a slice of watermelon, right down to the rind, holding the wedge between my two hands.

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The Best Exotic Item for Purchase: Tartufaia Truffles’ White Truffle Honey

Need I say more? Truffle + Honey = guaranteed foodgasm

I might just have to fly back for more once I eat it all, and for only 5 pound a jar, it is the best bargain in London!!!

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The Best Eat at Home Purchase: West Country Preserves

I bought the Spicy Gooseberry with Cumin Seeds, which is more savory than sweet. It pairs well with chicken and meat, but also toast if your taste buds are like mine! I also bought one of the Ginger Curds, which is a sweetened yet naturally spicy spread that pairs lovely with toast and desserts. My friends got the pure Ginger Preserves, which were intensely flavorful but also amazing. The man knows how to sell too—he loves encouraging samples! I think I tried all 32 varieties before selecting my final two for purchase.

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Other Items I purchased and loved:

 Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella – So creamy and tender. I coupled these bad boys with some sliced tomatoes and avocado wedges when I got back home and they were lovely.

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Date and Walnut Bread from The Flour Station– I was on a date kick after my trip to Harrods (where I bought the best dates of my life!), and so I decided to get loaf of this bread. It turned out to be my breakfast pregame and late night snack for the remaining days of my trip. A fabulous purchase!

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1 BOROUGH MARKET YUM

Roasted Porchetta Sandwich with Applesauce and Rockett on Ciabatta – this was not my favorite, as I found the meat a bit too fatty and difficult to swallow. That being said, I did love the deep rosemary flavor to the meat and the pairing of the sweet applesauce, which is something I will replicate at home in the future.

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Mulled Wine – It was my first English mulled wine experience, so I will have a special place for it in my heart, but I went on to have much better from street vendors at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And priced at 4 pound a cup, it was difficult to catch a buzz!

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Chocolates and Fudge from Burnt Sugar– I loved the chocolate covered honeycombs made with rich dark chocolate, but learned that fudge is not really my thing. It might be the only food that I can say isn’t one of my weaknesses.

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Markets

{ Mulled Red Wine with Amaretto }

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Last week I had the opportunity to visit London, and I was awestruck by the number of street vendors selling mulled wine and hot cider–not mention awestruck by the number of Brits consuming these boozy concoctions irregardless of the time of day! I was determined to try as many different varieties of each during my 9 day stay, and given the dominant role that alcohol plays in English society, there were plenty of opportunities for me to warm up with a cup of spiced and spiked goodness!

At Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, I was able to double fist German sausages and mulled wine, in between playing over priced amusement games. I took a fond liking to the sour cherry wine and the amaretto wine, but set out to replicating the latter on this snowy afternoon in the States. I used Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine recipe as the foundation for my technique, but also added the apple cider element of Ina Garten’s recipe. The amaretto was a touch of my own, inspired by the street vendors in London and the result was a fabulous, soul-warming Holiday beverage. I will be making this on the many chilly nights that are yet to come!

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{ What You’ll Need }

  • 1.5 L bottle of red wine (I used Robert Mondavi Merlot, but many prefer a dry red)
  • 2 oranges, peeled and juiced
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • Amaretto, for garnish (you can also use brandy!)

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{ What You Do }

In a stock pot over medium high heat, combine the sugar, cloves, lemon peels, bay leaves, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel and juice. Add just enough red wine to cover the sugar and spice mixture and allow to boil for 4-6 minutes, until the sugar mixture is thick and syrup-like (see NOTE #1).

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Add the remaining red wine, apple cider, and star anise and reduce the heat to low. Allow the wine to heat through, but don’t let it get too hot or the alcohol will burn off. Once heated, ladle into mugs and garnish with orange wedge and splash of amaretto! (see NOTE #2)

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*NOTE #1: This step is very important as it develops the flavor of the mulled wine. You want a flavorful rich syrup, so let it reduce down. You don’t want to over-heat the wine mixture once you add the remaining wine or it will burn off all the alcohol content–and who would want that?!?!

*NOTE #2: If you have leftover mulled wine, ladle it into Mason Jars and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Just reheat prior to serving.

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Filed under Bars, BYOB, Cocktails, Markets, Recipes