Friday, September 30, 2011

A Perfect London Day! The Bull and Last and Southampton Arms

We woke up Sunday and did some touring around our area and then took the train out to Kentish Town. This isn’t a usual tourist stop. It seemed as it was mostly residential and reminded me a bit of some parts of Brooklyn. The reason for the trip was the restaurant and gastropub The Bull and Last.

This little place had quite a bustling bar downstairs and then a serene dining area upstairs where the sunshine filled the room and portraits of dogs and horses filled the walls.

As soon as we sat down we both knew this was exactly what we had been looking for. London had been so packed the last two days with people it had been hard to think straight. I was ready for a relaxing Sunday. Once again a Rose for me and for Mr. T a pint of Stiegel.

We began our meal with some Trotter Wontons with Sweet Chili.

Mr. T absolutely loved these. It’s was pig’s foot done Chinese take out style- what’s not to love. Sundays in London are reserved for a nice big roast and who are we to argue. We split the Roast Rib of Dedham Vale Beef.

When I look at this dish I feel the love. Eggy, warm Yorkshire Pudding almost taunts the eyes with its natural bowl of delicious gravy . Some plump roasted potatoes, charred carrots and beans sit below just perfect for soaking up all the juice from the roast. Some nasel clearing horseradish sat nearby as the perfect accompinent to such an honest, comforting dish. This is what Sundays are for!

We finished the roast and although we were full the menu begged us to have more. Everything sounded fabulous! Fried Duck Egg with Bacon Lardons, Crab Soup with Fontina Croquettes, Triple Cooked Chips for goodness sake! But in the end I think we made the right decision, probably what they’re known for most- homemade charcuterie.

This plate is a masterpiece for the senses. There are so many textures, colors, smells and we haven’t even begun to talk about the taste. Prosciutto, Liver Parfait, Ham Hock Terrine, Rillets, Pickles, Remoulade & Toast with some crunchy radishes and quail eggs to boot. This was absolutely phenomenal. Each thing I tried was better than the last and it even had me wonder why it took me so long to eat Pig’s Head.

Even though we were stuffed I just couldn’t resist one scoop of ice cream. Why? Because it’s Ferrero Rocher ice cream!

How does it get better than this? I don’t think it does. The Bull and Last was so worth the trip out to Kentish Town. I loved the food, the service was great and the atmosphere couldn’t be better (they allow dogs too).

We were both so happy with our leisurely Sunday meal. We stopped at the Southampton Arms on the way back to the Tube for a few pints. The good beers and neighborhood feel almost convinced me we should move to Kentish Town. What more do we need than these two places!! Then we took the long ride back into the city where we found a sports bar so I could watch my game. Yes even in London I need to see my football team play. Luckily we did find one and after a fabulous victory we decided to cap off the night with one more thing. The seafood plateau from J. Sheekey’s!

It was almost 11:00 PM at this point but they welcomed us with open arms and gave us the same great service and food as last time we went. It was such a wonderful day. We both went to bed that night bellies full and happy as can be.

The Bull and Last

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rainy Day Drinks & St. John's Restaurant

Once the rain started we took the Tube over to Craft Beer Co. Unfortunately we miscalculated the walk and got completely soaked. It was bad- I mean head to toe soaked. Oh well it was made somewhat better by the fantastic selection of 16 cask beers, keg craft beer and about 300 bottled beers at the bar.

This place specializes in beer from all over the world and they just happened to be highlighting Southampton beers that day.

Of course who goes to London to get a beer they can have in NY? Instead I enjoyed an awesome red lager from the UK while Mr. T had an Espresso Porter . We stayed at Craft Beer until the rain let up and decided we could maybe do one more pub before our dinner at St. John’s.

The rain had stopped but there were huge puddles and slick streets left over. We were walking down one road decorated with some shiny stones and well those stones were like stepping on a banana peel because Mr. T took one step and went down hard. I have no idea how his iPhone didn’t get smashed to bits but his hand, knee and arm were all pretty banged up. We ended up searching for bandaids for what seemed like hours. Finally we found a pharmacy and stopped in a little Irish pub so he could fix himself up. Day one- stomach problems, day two- multiple fall wounds…we weren't exactly doing so well on this trip. But a good meal was ahead so we trudged on!

We had eaten at the smaller St. John’s Bread and Wine the last visit and loved every second so we were excited to finally try out the original. We started out with a bottle of the house red and our first appetizer, which was probably the highlight of the night for me, the Braised Octopus with Chickpea and Red Onion.

Everything in this dish just worked. The Octopus was incredibly tender, probably the most tender I’ve ever had and the bright pickled onions and creamy chickpeas made this a vibrant and refreshing dish. Our second appetizer was also awesome-Crispy Pigs Skin with Radishes & Watercess.

I absolutely loved the creamy dressing on the salad and the salty skin was fabulous when you got a perfectly cooked piece. Unfortunately it was a little uneven. Some pieces were great and some were so crisped up they didn’t taste like anything but crackling fat. However I would definitely order this dish again.

Unfortunately my Crumbled Veal with Chicory and Anchovy was a disappointment. It was basically a wiener schnitzel. It was a good wiener schnitzel- don’t get me wrong. But it was dull and unexciting. Nothing like the euphoria I experienced last year with the Ox Heart.

Mr. T’s Braised Hare & Swede fared better. This was certainly a gamey piece of meat but it was tender and the sour swede really went well with it although he also said he was expecting a little bit more.

The new potatoes looked good but lacked any flavor.

For dessert we ordered the Trecale Tart & Vanilla Ice Cream which was good but insanely sweet. Thank goodness we split this dish because I would have been in sugar overload eating one alone. It kind of reminded me a Chess Pie or the filling of a Pecan Pie.

So overall we didn’t love St. John’s anywhere as much as we loved Bread & Wine. By the time we finished up the place was packed and it was obvious they were trying to turn our table over without much regard to whether we were finished or not. Both of us left a little disappointed and yearning for our dinner at the other one.

We tried to end the day on a positive note with a cocktail near our hotel at the Albannach but by that time we were both tired and a little down. Mr. T’s wounds were killing him, our clothes were messy from being poured upon earlier and I had hit a wall from the jetlag and drinks. We retired to the room and went to bed hoping for a more successful day tomorrow.

Craft Beer Co.

St. John Bar and Restaurant


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Woseley and Fortnum and Mason

We woke up Saturday morning excited and feeling much more refreshed and rested than the previous day. We leisurely got ready and took a nice stroll over to the Woseley in hopes of some good feed. Unfortunately I didn’t have a reservation for the main area but only had to wait about 20 minutes for a seat in the café. That just gave us some time to have some morning drinks!

The space at the Woseley is awesome with beautiful tall ceilings, gorgeous antique clocks and just a wonderful buzz from all the well dressed guests milling about. My stomach was feeling much better but I knew we had reservations at St. John’s for dinner and again I wanted to play it safe. So I ordered one of my favorite sandwiches of all time the Croque Madame.

We had this at the Woseley last time and again the cheesy center and crunchy, butter crust was just delicious. Mr. T said he wanted to try something new so he ordered the Buck Rarebit.

This actually looks similar to my Croque and the components are the same- bread, cheese and egg- but they are much, much different in taste. The cheese tasted like it had been blended with Worchester sauce and maybe some mustard. It was such a strong and pungent taste it was overwhelming. Mr. T somehow managed to eat most of the dish but we both agreed it would not be something ordered again.

After lunch we strolled over to Fortnum and Mason which is pretty much like Disney World for me being that it’s a gourmet grocery store. It’s just floors upon floors of fabulous cheese, wine, tea and caviar all for sale. Of course I immediately went to the sweets section where they were celebrating Halloween.

Just look at this awesome chocolate gremlin.

And Bloody Chocolate Fingers!

I picked up a few mini cupcakes for our lunch dessert (because on vacation it’s proper to have one with each meal). Unfortunately they all were a little dry. The butter cream frosting had potential but it seemed as if they had been frozen and thawed leaving a dry cake and dense top. Quite disappointing.

We had worked up quite a thirst after our shopping so we headed downstairs to the Fortnum and Masons 1707 Wine Bar. This place had some fabulous looking flights of wine but since it was relatively early in the day we figured one would be enough. Unfortunately a flight might have been the way to go since as soon as we walked out of door it started to pour! We ran to a nearby coffee bar to sit but after looking at the radar it was obvious that this storm wasn’t going anywhere for awhile. Most of our plans involved a lot of walking around and neither of us had an umbrella or proper shoes so we decided to abandon all plans and hit up the pubs!

The Wolseley

Fortnum and Mason

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Start of our Honeymoon- Day 1 London!

Well to tell you the trip started off a little bit rough is an understatement. In the three days prior to leaving we spent a full day at the bar for the start of football, did some serious celebrating for my birthday and attended the Big Four concert at Yankee Stadium.

I have to admit I actually loved the concert. The music isn’t exactly my forte but every single band rocked it out and standing on the field at Yankee Stadium was awesome. However the next morning both of us were absolutely exhausted and the trip hadn’t even begun! We decided to have a proper lunch at Eataly before heading to the airport for stamina. Unfortunately Eataly would not be my friend that day.

We went to Il Pesce and got fish…I’m not sure what was wrong with it but within hours my stomach was killing me. Mr. T wasn’t doing so hot either with serious stabbing pain in his stomach as well. I couldn’t eat a thing else until we arrived in London for fear of shaking the boat and getting sick on the plane. Luckily we checked right in and were able to give our bodies a little rest before walking over to the National Gallery for some art browsing and lunch.

We took a table in the National Dining Room overlooking Trafalgar Square. We each ordered a drink- rose for me and a proper English beer for Mr. T and split the Ploughman's platter. My stomach was still incredibly shaky so I wanted to keep it simple with bread, cheese and meat- nothing too crazy.

While there was nothing exciting about this dish it was perfect. The sweet chutney was fabulous with the cheese and although the bread could have been better the cracker was perfect. The space and view are just spectacular. It reminded me of a cross between Cafe Sabarsky and the Modern Bar Room. Our seat by the window was just perfect for some people watching below.

After lunch we did some walking around and then decided to hit up a couple of pubs. We made a mini tour of the Samuel Smith bars starting at the Princess Louise for some Hefeweizens and over to the incredibly packed Citte of York for some Bitters. After some imbibing we needed more food but my stomach was still hurting (not that the beer was helping). We had reservations at J Sheekey’s but just the thought of a big seafood platter was making my stomach churn. We cancelled- and instead walked back to a pizza joint I had noticed on the walk in.

While Pepe’s Italian Street food might not have been on my radar for our first meal in London it certainly hit the spot. The crispy crust and delicious sauce were just what the doctor ordered. We pretty much devoured our slices and after a quick drink at the Ship and Shovel we hit the hay. It had already been quite a long day and we had to rest up for all the wonderful things to follow!

National Gallery Dining

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cafe Centro

As Patina restaurant members we get a $50 coupon every birthday to one of their restaurants. We almost always go to Café Centro. I don’t really know why- there’s just something calming about the place. Both Mr. T and I had horrible days at work and sitting outside with the warm breeze and great people watching just made life seem a little better.

They started us off with a nice French baguette with two types of butter and olives.

Then onto appetizers- mine their delicious Crab Cake. This thing is awesome- it has almost no breading at all and the spicy mustard dressing is awesome.

Mr. T’s Jumbo Lump Crab Cocktail was absolutely enormous! I’ve never seen so much in one cocktail before.

For mains I went will a big old bucket of Mussels. I’m really into Mussels lately and these were delicious. Much like the crab cocktail these things were huge! Not only the mussels themselves but the pot as well. I told Mr. T we should just share one next time (he didn’t agree but I stand by my statement)

The frites were delicious as well. Long, skinny and perfectly salted just like a frite should be.

Mr. T ordered the Lobster Risotto and as you can see this restaurant continued it’s trend with size. Large chunks of lobster meat studded the creamy risotto. It was a tad on the watery side but acceptable in taste and flavor.

We were both too full for dessert so we declined and instead went over to the Campbell Apartment and had a drink upstairs. This was my first time there (tried four times before- always a private party) and I LOVED it! May be my new favorite bar in NYC. Too bad I can only afford a cocktail or two. The vibe, music and ambiance were amazing. So although the day started out pretty bad, it ended on a lovely note. With our $50 coupon we ended up paying around $60 total for the meal. That's a pretty awesome bargain in this pricey town.

Cafe Centro

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brunch at Cafe Mogador

I’ve walked past this tiny café a billion times and am always amazed by the lines of people waiting and packed tables out front. I was meeting a friend for brunch the other day and decided it was finally time to try it out. We got there right around 1:45 and waited about 15 minutes for a table. The place seemed a pretty chaotic with waitresses and servers running this way and that. It took a little while to actually get our order placed but once we did the service for the meal was on point.

The regular brunch specials here comes with orange juice and a cappuccino. We decided to add on one more drink a delicious Blood Orange Martini. This was a fabulous choice, the juice taste fresh squeezed and had a wonderful tart snap which completely woke me up and fit the meal.

Mogador is a Moroccan Restaurant so what better dish to get than the Moroccan Eggs.

Two poached eggs with a spicy tomato sauce, homefries and pita bread. This dish was just about as fabulous as you can get. The eggs were perfectly poached with a nice runny center and soft whites. I’m kind of obsessed with tomato sauce on my eggs- I think it’s about the best thing ever and here it had just the perfect amount of spice. The potatoes were pretty average but good and the warm pita bread was delicious for sopping up the leftover sauce.

Café Mogador is certainly a solid spot. The food was delicious and easy on the wallet for sure. If you find yourself in the hood this is definitely worth the wait.

Cafe Mogador

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Afternoon in Maspeth

I was out in Maspeth the other day and decided to take a little time after work and see what food delicacies I could find. I had only walked a block when this awesome looking old school Italian market basically jumped out at me.

Iavarone Bros. looked like to had all the makings for a rocking deli and I was right.

Right inside is the display case with a huge selection of classic Italian prepared foods- rice balls, chicken parmigina, lasagna- you name they had it.

Over in the side case were sausage rolls, shepherds pie, and bread pudding. Not to be out done by the awesome looking penne with vodka sauce and some mussels in white wine.

It was a hard decision but I ended up trying out three things- chicken parm, pasta carbonara and the chicken special of the day.

The Chicken Parmigina was amazing!! Nice crispy oregano breading with a slightly sweet and tangy tomato sauce and some ridiculously fresh mozzarella. This was everything Chicken Parmigina should be but so often isn’t.

The Pasta Carbonara was good as well with peas and pancetta inside. Although the neon orange sauce did throw me a bit.

Last but not least the chicken of the day- General Tso’s! I had to get this just because I thought it was funny. Chinese food in an Italian deli?? It was just some fried chicken chunks in sauce but honestly it was really tasty. Much less greasy than from Chinese take out and with some nice pieces of white meat.

I didn’t even get to delve into their amazing meat and cheese department filled with gorgeous cuts of porterhouse and fresh balls of smoked mozzarella. I’ll have to come back for that another day

After my food tour of Iavarone Bros I wandered past Rosa’s Pizza and look at glace at their Grandma slice. However my stomach was couldn’t handle another savory bite- I needed sweet. So over I went to Isabella’s across the street.

How can you not be lured in by signs of whoopee pies and sidewalk chalk! Much like Iavarone Bros it has a homey, old school feel inside and offered so many different flavors of ice cream and icees I felt a little overwhelmed.

Finally I settled on a Child’s size scoop of Butter Pecan for $1.00.

Why can’t there be scoops of ice cream in Manhattan for a dollar? This was the perfect amount of buttery rich ice cream with just a tad too many pecans (but whose complaining about that).

I was stuffed after that and finally wobbled my way over to the bus and hitched a ride home. I really had a nice little tour of Maspeth and vow to write about Queens more often. There’s so much to been seen in this borough and I really haven’t highlighted it enough.