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Archive for July, 2009

The next morning, we woke up at a lazy time of 11:30. We had some coffee while I photographed Suma (S and LW’s dark-roasted coffee bean cat), who seemed a bit annoyed when I asked her to model for me, as she was obviously busy staring out the window.

suma @ window

Then off we went to discover London, armed with a map and itinerary provided to us by LW and S. We took the bus to Notting Hill Gate to roam through the colorful Portobello Market on Portobello Road.

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There were antique shops, old books, and record stores.

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And Hummingbird Bakery, where we shared a chocolate cupcake.

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Seeing the customers come and go, I learned that the “Bling-Bling” was a very popular cupcake. (Jess, silver dragees!)

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I also learned that in London, they sell produce by the bowl.

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Past the market, I stealthily snagged a photo of uniformed students in a schoolyard (the teacher probably thought I was a stalker).

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We had a delicious lunch (even though everything was sitting at room temperature) at a quaint neighborhood joint, Gusto.

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On the edge of Hyde Park, we stopped at The Champion to grab a couple of pints and to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip.

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It was a sunny afternoon in Hyde Park.

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Swans were gliding through the pond.

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There were signs of royalty everywhere.

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On the other side of the park, we came to Harrod’s — the most disgustingly luxurious mall I have ever stepped foot in. Look at their gourmet foods floor.

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We couldn’t resist going to their top floor, where the toys and games are. We crashed flippable remote-control cars, and saw a model of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace.

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After our fun at Harrod’s we met LW and S at the Natural History Museum for happy hour. The museum is an amazingly beautiful place to hang out.

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Finished with our drinks, we left the museum for our next destination — The Golden Hind, which is S and LW’s favorite joint for Fish ‘n Chips (they have done a lot of research).

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It was an excellent and filling meal. The fish fillet was lightly battered — and enormous. And we got to try mushy peas for the very first time!

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belgium, continued.

The next morning from Leuven, L accompanied us to the Bruxelles-Midi train station to drop off our luggage at the lockers and send us off on a train to Brugge. We passed farms and lush, green pastures dotted with cows.

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In Brugge, we went on a tour of the city by foot, starting from the old belfry in the market square. We passed by numerous lace shops (including one with a somewhat creepy window display),

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and walked along the canal. We got a bit lost along the way, but found ourselves enjoying the detour.

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After a quick lunch of frites, soda, and a Hoegaarden (which was the same price as the soda), we rushed back to Brussels to see more of it.

In Brussels, we ambled around the Marolles district and browsed through a few antique shops.

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We then headed towards the Museum of Musical Instruments, our eyes feasting on so many beautiful sights along the way.

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We took a relaxing stroll through Parc de Bruxelles,

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and stumbled upon the Grand Place, the magnificent market square of Brussels.

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We stopped for cookies at Maison J. Dandoy before wandering down a side street to see the famous Brussels landmark, the Petit Julien (a statue of little boy urinating).

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After a whirlwind afternoon in Brussels, we met up with L for dinner at the Armes de Bruxelles. We shared an appetizer of escargot (although the flavor of the garlic and parsley butter was good, I am still not very fond of escargot), and we all ordered moulet frites for our main course. Well, of course we did. Why wouldn’t we?

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L walked us to the train station, where we said our goodbyes and parted. J and I then hopped onto the Eurostar to London. How we love the lightning-fast Eurostar! While I napped, we sped through France and the English Channel. In a mere two hours, we found ourselves at the London St. Pancras International, where we met up with our good friends, LW and S.

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peach pie

I am running behind on my blogging, but I thought it would be a shame not to include a post on this peach pie.

We live one and a half blocks away from a neighborhood farmer’s market that opens every Saturday. It has been so wonderfully convenient for us to get the freshest organic fruits and vegetables of the season on a weekly basis. We have been hoarding and eating peaches, nectarines, and apricots, and remembering just how long ago it was when these stone fruits came and went, taking summer along with them. Fragrant and ripe, we’ve best enjoyed these fruits by eating them whole over the kitchen sink, with juices dripping. At one point, however, I set my eyes on making a fresh peach pie.

I followed a recipe that I found in Gourmet magazine for Honey Caramel Peach Pie, except I left out the honey. I was afraid that the strong flavor of honey would overpower the natural sweetness of the peaches, and thought that the caramel portion would itself be enough to add a hint of sweetness. In the end, the peaches were the star of the show, aided by a touch of caramel — sweet but still slightly tangy. Honey may have added some flair, but it was certainly not needed.

This may sound a bit crazy, but one of the most satisfying steps in this recipe involves cutting slits in the peaches, and then blanching and peeling them. Especially the peeling part — how the slithering peach skin so easily slips off the flesh, revealing a glossy, smooth, orange-blush of naked peach. It is quite fun, actually. I recommend trying this out if you ever need any summer stress relief.

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The peeled peaches are then sliced and mixed with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and later on, the stove top-made caramel syrup. The coated peach slices are nestled in the bottom half layer of pie crust, and covered with the top layer of pie crust. (To be honest, I have not made many pie crusts in my lifetime, but I absolutely love this pie crust. I see myself using it again and again in the future.)

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After a few slits on top, a smudging of milk (I don’t have a pastry brush) and a sprinkle of sugar, the pie is baked to a bubbly, hot crisp. Despite the instructions, we ate this pie about an hour after it came out of the oven, still warm.

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Caramel Peach Pie (adapted from the above Gourmet recipe)
3 lb ripe peaches
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
All-butter pastry dough
1 tablespoon milk

1. Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch peaches in batches in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges.
2. Toss peaches well with cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Put a foil-lined large baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
4. Bring 1/2 cup sugar and water to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over fruit and toss (caramel may harden slightly but will melt in oven).
5. Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out remaining dough.
6. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.
7. Transfer filling to pie shell, mounding it. Cover pie with pastry round. Trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Brush top all over with some of milk, then sprinkle with remaining Tbsp sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a paring knife.
8. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until crust is golden-brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours.

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