All in The Silver Spoon


BEETS | 16 JUNE 2011

I recently dated the purchase of my most favoured pair of work pants (trousers, obviously!) to sometime in the fall of 2003.  So needless to say, I am not the most up to date with the current trends, although said trouser manufacturer still makes that style of pant and so if you were being generous you could say my look is timeless.  It was therefore a great pleasure to learn from my friend/ex-landlord, Lavinia that my rooftop activities were very of the moment.  Yoga, you ask? It is certainly not warm enough here in London.   It is, however, pretty much perfect for growing vegetables.  Travel & Leisure or some other equally in the know magazine had just declared roof top gardening the thing to do.  So I am pretty pleased with myself. I love all my little plants and although I am only harvesting lettuce and kale right now I am eagerly anticipating the rest of the bounty.  Thus, my Abel & Cole box will still arrive with vegetables until summer is truly in full swing and I have no choice but to open a stall on Portobello Road to get rid of the surplus.  So between the lettuce from upstairs and the beets from the box, my favourite salad this year was born. 


13 MAY 2011

I recently had dinner with a teacher from myhigh school who, when asked about how teaching has changed since we were in school (before the internet!), she answered: “Teaching our girls how to manage their online profile and reputation.”  I hadn’t really thought of that but I guess what you put on the internet sticks and is available for all to see.  I should therefore not have been shocked when the publicist of Ryvita emailed me to see if I,  ‘a bit of an all around foodie and interested in nutrition to boot’ (her words), would be interested in sampling their new crackers made for cheese.   I thought sure I can do that.  Then she said she would send me the crackers and some cheese.   I hastened my typing to reply faster, YES!  Now I have read about the pitfalls of accepting free things in return for endorsement but I promised to be honest to myself, Ryvita and my readers and tell the God’s honest truth.  


20 New Change Passage London, EC4M 9AG website


Background: About once a quarter, my INSEAD friend Andrew and I try to meet up for lunch somewhere in between Old Street and Fleet Street.  He picks my brain about my views on online shopping (a subject on which I can assure you I am an expert) for his company and he buys me lunch.  A pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  It’s not the easiest task trying to triangulate a restaurant in exactly the right spot but given the newness and relative hype we thought Barbecoa might be a good choice. Do forgive the iPhone pics, after a full year of silence I am a little out of practice.


Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES



Background: One of the inevitable consequences of moving to a new city, or country even, is that your existing friends and family try to set you up on friend dates.  On one such occasion, when my mother and her friend connected their daughters ‘who were looking for friends in London’, I met up with a girl who had been living in London for no less than 8 years, thinking she was helping out a newcomer (3 years deep).  That relationship was not meant to be and I believe our respective relationships with our mothers suffered as well.  It does happen every so often that you are connected by someone else and it just works.  In London it has happen three times, this particular time it was my step-brother Lopo who put me in touch with Rachel, a foodie, setting up her own catering business who is a super cool East London chick and we ate a great, simply meal together and just chatted and chatted forever.  The plan was to meet in Shoreditch, no small task in the snow (this post is about as current as the January snow storms), at a place called Rochelle Canteen.  I took the Hammersmith and City line, which means it’s a miracle I made it all, and even found the restaurant which is located in a schoolyard behind a wall with no sign (further indication that I am a genius).   




I tend to be very sceptical of expiration dates.  When it comes to meat, they are too long, butter and eggs, too short.  Ibuprofen and film? Not sure what they mean but I usually ignore them.  Pascal, on the other hand, is a purist.  If it says March 1st on the package then you can only safely eat it up to February 28th and even that might be pushing it.  This means that every now and again I need to come up with a recipe that gets rid of nearly expiring items (see Bread Pudding).  Soufflé is the end all be all of kitchen sink dishes.  You can put pretty much anything in it and it will still turn out great and be impressive to your fellow diners  (mine was a total disaster and still got a wow).  The word soufflé comes from the French souffler or to puff or to blow, which is basically what happens to this dish made mostly from egg whites and a custardy béchamel.  Usually the reason for a soufflé in my house is a surplus of cheese in this instance it happened to be eggs; really nice farmers market eggs that I bought way too many of when the farmer wooed me with his stories of happy chickens;  eggs that just so happen to be approaching their expiry date.  No matter how many times I demonstrate the ‘how to tell an egg is not bad’ trick to Pascal, the date on the box always supersedes, thus cheese soufflé for dinner.



Each year I approach New Year’s with a bit of trepidation.  Resolutions have never been my strong suit and the pressure of making good on them day 1, ie Jan 1, is daunting.  Thankfully our friends Brett and Miles have remedied that problem by hosting an annual New Year’s Day party, Southern style.  This means you can stuff your face with honey glazed ham, black eyed peas (for good luck), grits and collard greens (for good sex, the spicier the better!) and put off any looming resolutions until later in the month.  So with our bellies full and our hang-overs cured (did I mention Bloody Mary’s were involved) we flew the red eye home to London from New York. 



High Street, Bray, Berkshire, SL6 2AB 01628626151



Background:Our dear friend Jeffery is moving back to the States and to send himself off, he had planned a wonderful boozy lunch out in Henley the other Sunday.  So what is one to do when they find they need to be out in the countryside on Sunday for lunch? Well, schedule two meals around it, of course!  It was this magical thinking that brought us to The Hinds Head.  The Hinds Head is the pub of the world renowned Heston Blumenthal whose claim to fame, The Fat Duck, is just down the road. The pub, built in the 15th century, has been operational for over 400 years and although its original function is unknown some say it was a royal hunting lodge while other the guest house of the Abbot of Cirencester. In an unusual turn of events, I was not burdened by the responsibility of making a reservation but was told by my friend, Michelle that her new boyfriend, Dawid (pronounced Daa –Vid, try it once more) had made a reservation and we would be having a double date. Fantastic! Luckily the skies were pouring down with rain so there was nothing more we all wanted to do then sit down to a nice pub lunch.




If only the lack of blogging this summer would be the direct result of lack of eating.  Alas, it is not.  I not only ate my way through the summer but I have nothing to show for it except half a dozen pairs of jeans that don’t fit. I have therefore embarked upon no less than five attempts at dieting only to find myself in the South of France or other such environs where dieting is, indeed, impossible.  I welcomed the first of September, with its ever so slightly cooler breeze, as a new start, fresh beginning, or back to school if you will:  I have sworn off carbs!  And I haven’t been so bad, one French fry here and there but I have been pretty good.  So what to do when lovely brother and sister-in-law invite themselves over for dinner (I wish more people would do this by the way)?  Well there isn’t much else to do than whip out the Ottolenghi cookbook and start flipping through the pages of what can only be categorized as food porn. It’s not too difficult to put together a starter and a main course and avoid the dreaded carbohydrate but dessert is a different matter altogether.  Enter the flourless chocolate cake: pure genius.  As soon as I laid eyes upon this recipe I knew that it was meant to be.  Isn’t that cheating you say?  Yes, of course it is.  But were my guests to suffer because of my personal battle of the bulge.  I think not!  Does that mean I have full license to have chocolate cake for every meal until I finally gave away the rest to my housekeeper? No! But did I?  Yes! And with pleasure. 




I wish I could say that I have a love affair with vegetables.  I desperately want to love them, each and every one.  But, alas, I don’t.  I have been trying to enjoy the most revered of all vegetables, the aubergine or eggplant, for the past year with no luck.  I hate it and that’s that.  Peppers also make me uneasy so that mixed grill vegetable plate is kinda out for me.  That said I have also been known to say that I hate peas; mostly because I find them annoying.  They remind me of that little song/poem: “I eat my peas with honey/ I’ve done it all my life/ I eat my peas with honey/ It keeps them on the knife.”  For me, that about sums up peas: evasive little fellows that are hard to eat.   Then I moved to England and was introduced to mushy peas, which enlightened me to the fact that I did not have a problem with the taste of peas just the format.   



283 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London, W11 2QA



Background: Living (and eating) in Notting Hill can be exhausting (and fattening).  We also tend to frequent the same restaurants over and over again.  Come Sunday there is often no food in the house and Pascal and I debate if we should just go back to the usual or try something new.  Negozio Classica was recommended to us by two trusted sources, Skye (who also recommended the Ottolenghi cookbook for which I am forever grateful) and Melissa, my Pilates instructor (read great body and healthy) so it seemed appropriate for a light Sunday night bite.  Negozio Classica is on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road, a corner with uber people watching possibilities (although probably not recommended on a Saturday)and is basically a wine shop with a couple of tables.  Negozio means shop in Italian so that would make sense to anyone who speaks Italian; I do not so I looked it up.  This also means that if you order wine then you pay a shop price and not a restaurant price which is great news. 



MANSCHOOL #1 | 8 JULY 2009


It's no secret - an inordinately high proportion of the world's best chefs are men.  Joël Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, Paul Bocuse, Tetsuya Wakuda, Alain Ducasse.  Let's leave aside all questions of right, wrong, equality, yay, nay or otherwise, because that's for another time.  What actually puzzles us most about the high number of haute cuisine male chefs is the lack of a corollary - if the creme de la creme is mostly male, then why are most mortal men utterly hopeless in the kitchen?


Summer is here, of sorts, and short dresses have lured the heterosexual male from the sofa to the beer garden, in pursuit of love and lust.  (Yes, this is primarily directed at straight men. ManSchool's gay friends just don't need as much help in this area.)  So you've met a nice lass at the pub, got her number, and are poised to call her up to ask her on a date.  ManSchool suggests that you don't take her to a white tablecloth overpriced restaurant.


Cook her dinner instead.




Weird things happen when American ex-pats living in London get together en masse.  For starters a lot of England bashing goes down (light-hearted of course) but strange yearnings for the products of home arise.   This is pretty much how July 4th manifested itself for me this year.  I confessed to bringing Ziplock and Force Flex garbage bags, Bounce fabric softener and mini white (only multi-coloured exist in England, don't ask me why) marshmallows back with me from trips to the states.  My friend Ann, who is returning to NY, offered me a couple bottles of Tide laundry detergent and some Windex and tears came to my eyes.  It was, therefore no surprise that I would rush home to Notting Hill bang down the doors of Mr Christians (literally), which has recently been stocking American items a la Partridges, and buy not one but two packages of probably the most abhorrent product on the US market.



Ripa di Porta Ticinese 55, Milan +39-02-8940-6277




It has been two years and two days since I first drove from France to London to start a new life.  Add to that 10 months for an MBA and it’s been nearly three years since I left my hometown of New York City.  I am often asked about how the cities are different and what do I miss from NY. My list, which I will save for another time, is often long and nostalgic.  At the top of that list, however, are my family and friends so when my best friend/ex-roommate/partner–in-crime, Michal, said she was moving to Europe I was elated.  By American standards she is not exactly close.  Geographically, Milan and London are about as close as New York and Atlanta (I had to Google this, took me four tries) but psychologically they are basically neighbours.  All I had to do was make sure that she actually went through with it and stayed. 



38-42 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4AY



Background:  One of the perks of writing about food and restaurants is that you end up meeting other people who are similarly impassioned by the same topic. Hence how I met Charlie McVeigh of the Le Café Anglais and The Draft House (I highly recommend both). We got a talking about cheese, wine, restaurants and the like and planned to have lunch.  Eating with a restaurateur is a little daunting.  He made the reservation at Eastside Inn (through the PR office at Le Café Anglais!), a newcomer to Farringdon around Smithfield market, in the previous home of Vic Naylor’s, opened by Bjorn van der Horst, formerly with Gordon Ramsey Holdings. 

When I hear the word “Inn” I immediately think of Jesus, for no other reason than he was born in the stable of an inn or so they say.  After Jesus comes small country get-aways in Connecticut or the Cotswolds.  This place was not very “inn-like” according to my standards but I am not in the habit of setting them so take them with a grain of salt.  The interior is modern and minimalist, a little too well-lit for my taste, and is divided into two sections; the restaurants and the bistro.  There is also a little lounge area where there is supposed to be jazz (apparently not lunchtime) but struck me as a little awkward.




I am not sure why, maybe it’s some sort of masochism, but I have been going all out on the dessert front recently.  I am still on a food lock-down and can’t even try the recipe as I go along but I have been committed to making cakes, tarts and desserts of any kind.  And, in turn, I am sharing them with you.  This is, of course, completely out of character as I don’t even have a sweet tooth and I have embraced a healthy lifestyle of reduced sugar consumption.  But still the urge to bake haunts me.  Perhaps it’s that I never really had the time to whip up a cake on a Wednesday afternoon and that this freedom has encouraged me into creating a dinner menu from start to finish.  I do cheat on hors d’oeuvres and buy cheese and crackers and the like but I have even entertained the idea making my own crackers. 




The last couple of days in London have provided me with more summer than I had previously experienced over two full summers.   There is a lot of skin to be seen, on both women and men, for better or for worse.   For some reason 75˚F (I still operate in Fahrenheit but it’s 26˚C for those of you who don’t want to whip out the calculator) in London feels like 90˚ anywhere else.  Workers have wet wash clothes draped over their forehead, Good Samaritans are handing out bottled water in the Tube and pretty much every woman on the street has pulled out a summer dress (albeit usually ill-fitting as she hasn’t had the opportunity to wear it in over 2 years).  Although it appears my summer might end tomorrow (it says it’ll still be sunny but cooler), I wanted to impart one of my favourite and easiest (and healthiest) summer dishes.  The luxury of hot weather when cooking is that your guests (or just you) don’t mind side dishes and the like to be room temperature.  This salad simply made up of zucchini (courgettes), summer squash (oddly, yellow courgettes), scallions (spring onions) and sugar snap peas (same name on both sides of the pond I believe) requires little prep and it a great hit for barbeques as well as for dinner.




Considering I have devoted considerable time and effort to writing about food and then going so far as to post it on the internet for all to see, it might seem logical that I am comfortable in the kitchen and like throwing dinner parties.  Yes, for all intents and purposes, this is true.  That also means that the pressure to perform and put together something special is that much greater.  So last week, I found myself looking down the barrel of another dinner party and I went into a bit of a panic.  Not only was I feeling uninspired but my guests were to be my brother and sister-in-law, Lopo and Sandrine, and my father, Bruce, flown in especially from New York (not really but he does live in NY).  Family can and should be easy dinner guests but it was also the inaugural visit to the new flat and sometimes they can be the harshest critics (or so it seems but in my case it’s mostly self-inflicted, they are nothing but supportive). But I also felt tapped out.   I had exhausted all the really wowing dishes at previous dinner parties and I have avowed to not eat anything that is remotely tasty (see Detox days 2 – 7, I am sticking with it for a little while longer). 

So in the end, I chose to make a simple and healthy dinner followed by a kick-ass dessert.  This is where I pigeon-holed myself.  I had just bought a brand new tart tin and I had to use it.  I am the type of person who can hardly wait to get home before wearing newly bought clothes. I have even been known to wear them out of the store which is usually awkward for everyone as the sales clerk gingerly tries to remove the tag without cutting off all my hair or stabbing me in the neck. 




Every year I try to get home for Memorial Day Weekend or the End of May Bank Holiday.  It marks the wedding anniversary of my father and step-mother, but more officially the beginning of summer.  It used to be a rather hit or miss weekend in New England; a scorcher or snowing.  Nowadays, given the glories of global warming, it’s usually pretty nice.  This year there were some blemishes on the forecast but all in all we were in for a good summer weekend.  That was until the wrath of the heavens unleashed upon us a tempestuous downpour of magnificent proportions.   Enough of the Shakespearean language, you are probably saying!  Well let me give you some background.  The house in Connecticut is a converted children’s camp complete with a theatre and corrugated tin roof.  It is the roof that makes for the flowery language.  When it rains the noise is deafening and downright frightening.  That said; there is also not much to do at a lake house when it rains except well, bake.  And so we did.   No one had planned on baking or anything less than hours upon hours of uninterrupted sunshine so we had to make due with what we had.  Banana bread was the target and it came out pretty well.  We had to figure out what to do during the hour it was meant to bake but when we came back the sun was setting over the lake as the mist rose and the kitchen was filled with the smell of banana bread.  Not a bad afternoon after all.