Friday, 30 December 2011

Grand Central Oyster Bar

Me and the family have been in New York this Christmas, and that is why I you will have to excuse me if I haven’t been keeping the blog up to date. I’ve been to NY many times since I was a kid, and each time we find new buildings, museums, restaurants and shops. But there is always one place I make sure to go to in our time in NY: Grand Central’s Oyster Bar

The first time I ever went, I was probably about 10 years old accompanied by my dad, who had been telling me how he just loved the place. The thing that made me fall in love with this is place is the fact that it is so old fashioned; it is huge with it’s high vaulted ceilings and a feeling that you are stuck in the 20’s.

They have a huge variety of seafood to choose from, but I find myself always ordering the same thing : New England Clam Chowder and Grand Central Oyster Platter. They have over 17 kinds of oysters to choose from, and if you find yourself too overwhelmed by the choice, just go for the mixed platter like I do, it’s delicious. Also, I would advise to skip the line of people waiting to be seated and just make your way to the bar where the rule is “First come, first serve”.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dinner in Lanuvio

When in Rome, I always make an effort and head to Ariccia with my friends at least once a week. Ariccia is the town famous for it’s Porchetta and it’s Romanella wine, situated in the Colli Romani, right outside Rome. The other night though, we decided to head a bit further to a town called Lanuvio, about 7km past Ariccia, to the restaurant owned by the uncle of one of my good friend’s. While Lanuvio is still part of the Colli Romani, the restaurants there are not considered Fraschette (a kind of restaurant typical of that area, but particularly of Ariccia), they serve more traditional food and better quality wine. The restaurant’s name is La Taverna del Marchese and is hidden in a tiny street in the old part of the small town. It’s been open for three years, and while in the very beginning it used to be a fraschetta, it recently had to turn to pizza making as well. The restaurant is very ‘homie’, with the owner’s young daughters running around the place, and it feels like you are actually eating in someone’s home. It is made very clear on the menu that it’s a ‘ristorante a km zero’, which means that all the food and wine are from Lanuvio and the area around. We had an ‘antipasto misto’ and asked the chef to bring us a mix of things, including the Focaccia they had just made; for the main we had Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe, both very delicious. As a second course we had Abbacchio scottadito and Filetto ai Funghi Porcini, both meats came from the local butcher Maurizio Galieti. The meal was accompanied by a local biological white Malvasia, and ended with a pear and chocolate tart baked that morning by Giulia, the chef’s wife. The town is beautiful, and the simple home-made food was definitely worth the 40minute drive from Rome.

Mozzarella di bufala and Affettati

Focaccia and Olive Ascolane, both home-made

Cacio e Pepe

Other reasons to go to Lanuvio:
·      Music Festival or ‘Festival della Musica’ takes place each summer in June
·      Wine Festival takes place in September
·      Juno’s temple

La Taverna del Marchese
Via Stampiglia, 51-53 Lanuvio

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cupcakes and Mulled Wine

I guess one of the perks of living with two other girls is that we have days like "cupcake baking accompanied by homemade mulled wine". I am personally not a huge fan of sweets and am really not a great baker, but watching the girls bake was fun, and the Mulled wine was delicious.
Mulled wine and freshly baked cupcakes were the perfect accessory for a cold Sunday in London, the only problem with the whole thing was that the mulled wine tasted so good I didn't actually realise how much I was actually drinking, that resulted in me being quite tipsy at 2PM in the afternoon. By 5PM the cupcakes had been forgotten and the Wine had completely taken over.
The warm wine and the Christmas themed Cupcakes definitely got everyone in a Christmas mood!

For the Mulled Wine:
1 bottle red wine (we ended up using about 12) 
cloves (as many as you like) about 6
1/2 tsp nutmeg
sliced oranges
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy (we used rum)

Cinnamon Swirl cupcakes 

Red Velvet

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chris’s Ginger Soup

So my friend Chris makes an amazing Ginger soup. Every time I go to Chris and Annie’s house for dinner, I make an effort in requesting the special soup. I personally have an obsession with lemons and love anything with lemon, and this soup has a lot of lemon. The only problem is that when I ask Chris for the recipe he just answers “ Just add stuff ‘till you like the taste of it, innit?”, but after one year of watching him make Ginger soup, I managed to figure out the recipe and even made it a few times on my own. I will provide a basic recipe for the soup, but Chris’s theory of “adding stuff until you like the taste of it” actually works.
(The amount for the ingredients varies depending on how many people there are and how much soup you want to make, also how much of the stuff you actually want in the soup)
·      Beef or Chicken (I prefer beef)
·      Ginger
·      Lemons (I use a lot)
·      Okra
·      Chinese leaves (or whatever green you like, I prefer Pak Choi)
·      Chayote (this is similar to an apple on the inside, with a taste similar to that of a cucumber, it looks like a green apple)
·      Hot peppers
·      Rice

First step is to boil a pot of water; when it comes to a boil you can add the meat and let it cook in the water until you think it is sufficiently soft (probably about 40 minutes)

While meat is cooking you can start adding some lemon juice, grated ginger and hot peppers (not all of them)

You can also add a stock cube to make it tastier

The vegetables go in last since they take the least time to cook (the chayote goes in first)

The main ingredients for a successful Ginger Soup are the lemons and the ginger, so just keep adding those until you like the taste of it. I like it very lemony and the vegetables not too overcooked, so they are nice and crunchy.

Cook a pot of white rice on the side, and serve two spoonfuls of it on the bottom of each person’s bowl, then pour the soup on top of that.

It’s a very simple soup; I love how I can add as much lemon as I want and the feeling that it’s so healthy (it actually is). Also, it’s different each time you make it, since you can change the amounts and even the ingredients. Enjoy!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Lovely day in Brighton

Even though I love London, I get extremely overwhelmed by it and often feel like I need to give my brain a rest from all of its chaos. Yesterday I decided to finally take a day trip outside of London and give my brain a rest in Brighton.
I had heard only good things about the seaside town and was extremely excited to explore, and eat some fish of course. It only took a 15 pound one hour journey to get there, and there are trains about every half an hour.
We walked down the Pier, which was empty (probably because it was a Wednesday morning); ate fish and chips at a pub, got a great look at the burnt pier, the Pavilion, and got to do some fun rides. At the end of the day we walked around Brighton’s small central streets which are full of shops, my absolute favorite was ‘Dirty Harry’ an amazing vintage store where I managed to pick up two vintage Hooter t-shirts and an old Adidas sweatshirt.
While walking along the beach I found a small stand that sold things like Oysters and Mussels ready to eat right there, they also had ‘Jellied Eel’ which I had never seen or heard of in my life, unfortunately I wasn’t brave enough to try it and just stuck to Oysters, which were absolutely fresh and delicious.
I was extremely impressed with the Pavilion, which my dad recommended to go see. It looks totally misplaced, like someone just took a building from somewhere in India and plopped it in Brighton. It’s huge and amazingly beautiful.
The one mistake I made was to go on the pier’s rides (which are quite harsh on the stomach) right after a huge meal of Fish and Chips, but apart from that Brighton was the perfect place for a brain rest. Oh remember to bring a scarf and gloves, the sea breeze is absolutely freezing!

My vintage bargain!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

5 Things I would really love to do in London

So I recently bought a book by Time Out called ‘1000 things to do in London’, for no reason really, just needed some inspiration. Well this book is full of great ideas! I will share the 5 top things that caught my attention, and that I will hopefully end up doing in my remaining year and a half in LondonTown

             1. Visit the Crystal Palace dinosaurs 
Opened in 1854, the Crystal Palace dinosaur Court, is a series of life-sized dinosaurs and extinct mammals within Crystal Palace park, and is also a  great example of science failure. At the time, dinosaur anatomy wasn’t that well known, so the statues look like huge deformed lizards. Still, I think it would be pretty cool to walk through a beautiful park and run into these gigantic beasts, definitely a must!
Thicket Road SE20 

2.     Have vodka in a Polish Bar
The thing I love most about London is of course its diversity of cultures. My neighbourhood is mostly Turkish, but I have seen some Polish restaurants and supermarkets around town. I’ve never actually had anything Polish, so I am quite curious to try, as I’ve only heard good things. Bar Polski is described as the ‘real deal’. With original home-cooked food and fridges full of vodkas divided in categories, why not make my way over there for a shot?
11 Little Turnstile, WC1V 7DX

3.     Visit the Horniman Museum
I always love going to a good museum, and usually the weirder the better. The Horniman specializes in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments, with a collection of over 350,000 objects on display. Divided into sections, its most famous is the stuffed animal part, or natural history. The first thing that catches your attention is supposed to be a 12 ft tall stuffed walrus. When reading about the museum I was attracted by the Apostle clock on the gallery above the Natural History collection; when it strikes four o’clock, 11 apostles come out and bow to the central Jesus, while the 12th, Judas, turns away. Stuffed with weird things, an aquarium, concerts, workshops and gardens, the Horniman museum sounds like a fun place to spend an afternoon.
100 London Road, SE23 3PQ

4.     Visit the London Coronet in Notting Hill on a Tuesday
Supposedly one of London’s finest cinemas, was originally built as a theatre, it was also the last cinema in London to allow smoking inside. On Tuesdays, movies are half the price, costing only 3.50 pounds. Being a student, this sounds like a good bargain, also, it’s in the beautiful Notting Hill.
103 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3LB

5.     Have a cup of coffee with a cabbie
Apparently, there are  bunch of green ‘garden sheds’ all around London, which are not actually garden sheds but Cabman’s Shelters. It’s a place for taxi drivers to have a cup of tea without disappearing in the nearest pub. There are about a dozen left in total, and they say that if you ask nicely, they might let you in for a cup of tea and a friendly chat. Maybe a big Italian smile will do it.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Pickle Heaven at Nour Festival

By now you must have all figured I really like food and cooking, I most probably got that from my mother, and this is another post about food, pickles specifically.

Today I had the pleasure to meet Anissa Helou, a wonderful woman who has a catering company, teaches cooking classes in Shoreditch, gives food tours, and has written 5 cook books. The Nour Festival has been taking place at the Leighton House Museum, and goes from October to November 2011, two whole months. the location is beautiful and because Anissa was the chef-in-residence, she was able to give three different discussions accompanied by cooking demonstrations relevant to the Middle East. 
Today, it was all about pickles. I personally love them, but you either hate or love pickles. After having visited Istanbul (and having loved it), I had noticed and loved all the different kinds of pickles on display, some restaurants only even served pickles, a true heaven for pickle-lovers like myself. Today I learned how to pickle different vegetables in three different ways: the Turkish, Persian and Lebanese ways. Lemons were stuffed with salt, stuffed aubergines swan in olive oil, and a rainbow of vegetabeles floating in cider vinegar coloured a plain jar. ‘Pickelling’ is really quite easy and anyone can do it, no cooking skills required.

I loved all the colors and smells, and Anissa was truly a great teacher. I am definetly going to pickle some stuff up myself, pickled vegetables and toasted bread still remains one of the best snacks ever.
mini-aubergines ready to be stuffed

You really can layer any vegetable you like

Turnips with a couple beetroots

The museum itself was actually really beautiful and worth going all the way there!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Borough market

Almost everyone goes to Borough market when in London, and it's also London's most known food market. I never get bored of it and make a stop there whenever I find myself to be in the area on the right day.
The market is one of my favorite places for lunch, with vendors selling almost everything you can think of and desire, most stands are pretty expensive but most times it's worth it. Open thursday, friday and saturday, the best day to go is on thursday so you avoid the tourists. My personal favorite is the oyster stand, with someone there to open them right in front of you, and you can sit down on the sidewalk next to the nearby church and slurp them down!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sunday traditions in Rome

This weekend I was not able to explore London because I was back home in Rome. Even though I love London, there are some things I miss terribly, one of these being Sunday breakfast with my dad.
Ever since I can remember, me and my father have had our own little tradition of driving every Sunday morning all the way to a neighbourhood called Prati, just to have breakfast. It takes us a good 20 minute drive to get there, but there is something so peaceful about Sundays in Rome, that it makes the drive very enjoyable.

The bar where the breakfast actually happens after the drive is always the same one, Antonini, one of my favorites because of it’s old fashioned looks and its large selection of sweet and salty foods.       
I would say that their specialty is cakes and their ‘tartine’, small salty pastries with all kinds of  flavours; topped with things like lardo di Colonnata, truffles and bottarga, a salted dry fish. But my favorite is their tramezzini, a special kind of Italian sandwich, very similar to a toast.

On Sunday mornings the bar fills up with people, some having breakfast, some reading the newspaper at the the tables outside and some buying pastries for after lunch (another Italian tradition). So if you ever happen to be in Rome on a Sunday, this is definitely a must; in the meantime I will continue  having English breakfast until the next time I go back home.   

Monday, 24 October 2011

Art in Regent's park

Living in London gives me the chance to explore all kinds of art, with an incredible amount of museums, fairs and galleries spread all over the city. Last week I managed to make it to the last day of  Frieze Art Fair.
Frieze is an annual contemporary art fair, that takes place each October in London’s Regent Park. The fair features more than 170 contemporary art galleries, massive collection of works from hundreds of international artists from literally all over the world. It does take almost a full day to get through the whole fair, and luckily there are a few cafe's and restaurants within the fair itself to keep your energy going.
I personally had never been to anything like it, and truly enjoyed it. The ticket was expensive, but for the amount of art I got to see, it was worth it. Even if you are not a big modern art lover, you are bound to find something you like and want to desperately take home with you.