Archive for August, 2009

london, day 4

It rained on our last day in London, but given the fantastic weather we had experienced during most of our stay, it didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. It was kind of nice, actually.

Since it was Monday, LW and S had to go to work, and they left even before we were up. We tried to arrange a meeting with LW at the MRC, where he does research, but sort of lost our way and sought refuge at the nearby newly constructed Westfield Center instead. Normally, we would not think of going to a mall while on vacation, but S gave us a sparkling review about the mall’s food court and we had to go see for ourselves.

Compared to food courts at American malls (think Sbarro and Orange Julius), food courts at British malls serve what we would call gourmet food. Mall food is taken very seriously here.


Per S’s recommendation, we stopped at the French bistro for cassoulet – duck confit in a stew of white beans and sausage. It was delightful.


After our little snack and some shopping, we went in search of our first high tea experience at The Wolseley.

The Wolseley was beautiful.


The sight of tea and cakes made me giddy.


Tea for two. Three delicious tiers of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and assorted desserts.




And, of course, tea with cream and sugar.


On our way to meet LW later that afternoon, we spotted a Laduree! The store itself looks like a cave of gold…gold and macarons.


There were so many varieties of macarons…we bought a box to take home with us.



J and I then went to the Asian markets to buy groceries for dinner that night. We had some free drinks with LW (a club’s promotional deal) before heading home.

For dinner, we made Chinese food. I taught S how to make some simple Kung Pao chicken, Ma Po tofu, and greens seasoned with salt and slivers of ginger.


For dessert, we had macarons. We “sampled” all of the flavors until the box was empty.


And so ended our time in London and our adventures in Europe this year. The next morning we woke at 4 a.m. to catch the tube to the train station. LW and S were so sweet to wake up with us, bleary-eyed, to hug us goodbye.


Read Full Post »

london, day 3

For breakfast, we had some pan-fried apricot and pork sausages.


We dodged street closures and crowds of people cheering on the racers in the Flora marathon…


to meet with some friends of LW and S at Shakespeare’s Globe, where LW had bought us tickets to see a performance of Romeo and Juliet.


We cut out early with the sun beating down on us, and bravely (that would be for S and J) crossed the Millenium Bridge.


After pausing to admire a church, we stopped at a local pub for lunch. J and I had beef pie and potatoes with cheese and baked beans, quintessential British foods.



After lunch, we walked along the Thames and saw the London Eye and various war memorials.



We made our way past Big Ben, Parliament (with protests outside), and Westminster Abbey, and stopped at the main gate of Buckingham Palace.






To end the night, we had dinner at a Persian restaurant in Notting Hill. The restaurant featured a tanur near the front door, where we can watch the thin bread being prepared and then slapped onto the side of the clay oven.




We had large plates of lamb kebabs and chicken kebabs and a giant jug of yogurt to drink. A happy food coma ensued.



Read Full Post »


A good friend of mine recently had a birthday, so I baked her a cake this week to celebrate. I chose to make her a chocolate birthday cake using a recipe that I found here. The cake itself is very fluffy and moist. Delicate, but sturdy enough to withstand the flipping and palming when stacking the cakes. I suppose the cake’s delicate nature makes using the parchment paper necessary. The frosting is simple and delicious. The cake is so good and light that it has you asking for a second slice. I was also lucky enough to have some leftover cake for my own birthday, too, so I guess I had a third and a fourth as well. Cake for breakfast, anyone?

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Devil’s Food Cake (makes one 9-inch cake)

For the cake:
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup low-fat milk

For the ganache frosting:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used about 8 oz)
½ cup milk
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.

3. To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl (I used a whisk to stir this together, instead of sifting — sift if you see large chunks of cocoa).

4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stop the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.)

5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

7. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream — I used milk instead) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take about 1 hour at room temperature. (To hurry the cooling of the ganache, I popped it into the fridge and let it sit until it was thick enough to spread. If it gets too thick, just stir it up to soften it.)

To frost the cake:

Run a knife around the inside of each of the cakes which will help release them from the pans. Tilt one cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want. (And then I topped the cake off with sprinkles!)

Storage: Cake is best the day it is made, although it’s fine the next day. Store at room temperature under a cake dome. Just be sure to keep cake out of the sun in the meantime.


I also wanted to share this sweet card that J made for me. He designed and drew the card himself, and printed it on photo paper. On the card, he included all the things that I love: our beagle, cupcakes, my camera, and flowers.


p.s. I thought it appropriate to finally change the name of this blog, since this blog has been slowly venturing away from content solely based on food. Cupcakes and food are a passion of mine, but I was thinking that I could also use this blog as a journal of sorts to chronicle my adventures with J and the little things that make us happy (which happens to include making and eating good food).

Read Full Post »

We woke up to a simple and yummy breakfast prepared by our friends, fueling us for the gastronomic day ahead of us.

A trip on the tube and a leisurely walk across the London Bridge planted us in the middle of a food lover’s dream — Borough Market.

Everywhere I looked, there was food.

Anticipation of paella.


Very British, and very posh bangers.


Olives, by the bucket.


Creme caramels, all lined up.


Vats of curries.


Cart of vegetables.


We raised our noses in the air and sniffed to our hearts’ content. Well, not really. We also ate. And ate. We had:

Baklava, dense and honey-packed.


Raw milk stilton cheese, pungent and creamy.


Grilled lamb burgers, thick and juicy. (This is a photo of a stall different from the one we went to — the boys got these for us to share while S and I went on a hunt for jute Borough Market bags.)


Truffles, so chocolatey.


Turkish delights, sweet and teeth-sticking.


But my personal favorite was what I call the cheesy mess.

At this stand, cheddar cheese is flame-broiled.


The melted cheese is scraped off,


onto a plate of boiled potatoes, with gherkins and pickled pearl onions on the side. Mmm.


Coming out of the market, we stopped for some drinks. We felt very smartly dressed at the pub.


Pork rinds, pub food.


We took ourselves outside the pub, where the street intersection was filled with people enjoying their drinks in the afternoon sunshine. I saw a cow that wanted to be loved.


We then walked toward the Tower Bridge, taking a million photos of it along the way. Half of the bridge had a new coat of peacock-blue.


After crossing the bridge, we stopped at another pub to watch some football, Man U vs. Tottenham. We made a couple of friends who recommended a great Indian restaurant in Whitechapel (if I remember correctly).


We went looking for this Indian restaurant and found it. The name escapes us, but we remember it being a very generic name. The food was GOOD.


To get home, we hopped on a bus that would give us a great tour of the city at night.


I witnessed the collision of a bus and Big Ben,


and took some self-portraits of us.


Back at home, we enjoyed a dessert of Cadbury chocolates and some biscotti that LW and S had brought back from their recent trip to Italy.


What a delicious day it was.

Read Full Post »