Saturday, June 22, 2013

Long weekend in London

For the month of June, Bobby is in London doing research at Queen Mary University. He was here last year for 2 1/2 months and I got to visit him many times. During those visits, I fell in love with London. It's a huge, vibrant, diverse city, and reminds me of all the things I love about Los Angeles. You can find really authentic ethnic foods, there's a fantastic music scene, the museums are plentiful (ok, this part doesn't remind me of LA so much), and the city has a long history with multiculturalism. Bobby is living on campus in faculty housing. In fact, he's in the same building he stayed in last year, except this year he has a great view of the Regent's Canal, which runs right behind the campus.
I flew out on a Wednesday night and went back to Copenhagen early Monday morning, so we had a nice long weekend together. On Thursday night, we went to the English National Opera to see a new opera by Philip Glass. The opera 'The Perfect American' is about Walt Disney's final months and explores the differences between the public's perception of Walt Disney (an image that was cleverly crafted by Disney himself) and something of a more truthful account (he's racist, sexist, and very anti-union). It was a pretty good opera and it was lovely to have the chance to see it.
On Saturday, we spent the afternoon at the London Natural History Museum. This museum is huge and has a giant collection of seemingly everything! Especially interesting is the collection of dinosaur fossils. We got to see fossils from numerous dinosaurs, including this T. Rex.
We of course had to pay tribute to our main man, Charles Darwin. Did you know Darwin is on the 10 pound banknote? In America, we can't even agree on teaching evolution in elementary schools!
Ok, enough politics, on to something we can all agree on... delicious food. On Friday night, Bobby and I went to a tapas restaurant recommended by one of Bobby's colleagues. Located in Soho, Fino is a great place. We ordered 5 or 6 different plates plus a really good bottle of white wine from the Spanish northwest region of Ribeiro. I really hope this bottle, The Flower and the Bee, is sold in Denmark! Aside from the wine, the food was also lovely. We had some fried artichokes, served with a saffron aioli.
We also had a great cuttlefish and squid dish, served in its own ink.
The duck was quite tasty as well. Bobby says it tasted like French toast, and he was absolutely right! It may sound weird, but it was actually a nice flavor: custardy, mapley, and rich.
We also ordered the pork belly, which was outstanding. For dessert, we order a cheese plate, which included 4 different English cheeses and a dried fig compote.
Our 8th wedding anniversary is coming up. Unfortunately, we won't be together on the 25th this year, so Bobby decided that for 2013, our anniversary fell on the 16th. And what do you know, we were together in London on the 16th! Bobby planned a really lovely day for us. We started with a visit to my favorite bakery/coffe shop, Violet Cakes. I ordered a chocolate cupcake with salted caramel icing (the icing was to die for) along with a pot of my favorite morning tea (Barry's Irish tea, which I fell in love with during our honeymoon in Ireland), and Bobby ordered a vanilla sponge cake with rhubarb along with a cup of coffee. After enjoying our desserts and caffeine, we headed to the movie theater to see the new Superman movie.
For dinner, we headed to the restaurant The Corner Room. This restaurant is located inside the Town Hall hotel, which is only about a mile away from Bobby's apartment. The hotel itself is pretty awesome: really funky interior and interesting art. The restaurant is quite small; it holds maybe 20 people. It doesn't accept reservations for dinner, but we were fortunate enough to go on a quiet night and got a table right away. We each ordered a starter, main, and dessert. This picture is of Bobby's starter: beef heart with buttermilk whey and celeriac. The beef heart was quite tasty: it was more like a steak than offal.
I ordered the purple sprouting broccoli and garlic tea with stracciatella. Yummy!
For the main, I ordered the aged beef with ash, egg, and radishes.
While Bobby ordered the Iberico pork with clams and yeast. Both dishes were really delicious, but I thought Bobby's was the better of the two.
For dessert, Bobby ordered a rhubarb dish (Bobby loves rhubarb, as you might tell from his choosing this dessert and the rhubarb treat he had earlier that day at the bakery). We can't quite remember what flavor the sorbet was, but it was good. Some of the rhubarb was smoked, which gave it a really interesting flavor. We both quite liked it.
I didn't want Bobby to feel left out ordering a dessert based around a vegetable (yep, rhubarb is a vegetable), so I ordered the squash and maple dessert. This was also quite tasty. I've never had squash as a dessert before, but now I can see how its natural sweetness really lends itself to a non-savory preparation.
All in all, it was a wonderful time. We got to do some of my favorite things: be in a foreign city, visit museums, attend a classical music performance, go to the movies, eat and drink well, and (most importantly) spend time with each other. Happy 8 years of wedded bliss, Bobby!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Catching up on our local vegetable bag

It's been a while since I've made an update on the bag of local organic vegetables I get. As you can see from this bag, which I received in early April, the winter growing season lasts pretty long in Denmark. Leeks, beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes (always potatoes), red onions, and mushrooms were not exactly the most exciting things to have after months (7 of them!) of winter. But the spaghetti squash was fun (and honestly, Bobby and I never complain about beets). For the spaghetti squash, I made a gratin, which was quite tasty but ugly as sin!
This bag from late April was a bit more exciting, with some fresh endives and two cucumbers! It also included carrots, beets, celeriac/celery root, leeks, potatoes (always, always potatoes), and parsley. I made a version of this salad with the endives, except I replaced the blue cheese with soft goat cheese. It was quite yummy! The parsley is still on my window sill, enjoying the sun.
And now we have last week's stash! Finally, spring has arrived in Denmark, just in time to be replaced by summer. We have some potatoes (always, always, always potatoes), new spring leeks (which are closer in size to scallions/green onions than the larger winter leeks), a cucumber, asparagus (the first asparagus of the season!), mizuna salad, and rhubarb! Now things are starting to get interesting.
I found this brilliant recipe on Food52: pickled rhubarb, asparagus, and goat cheese salad! As you can see, I replaced the white asparagus called for in the recipe with the green asparagus I received in my bag, and I used half butter lettuce and half mizuna salad. This was a seriously good salad. And pickled rhubarb? Deliciously awesome.
I used the potatoes to make my first batch of roasted garlic and goat cheese mashed potatoes. I have fallen in love with these and can't believe that I've lived 29 years without having made these. All I did was roast a whole bulb of garlic in the oven, then added all the garlic along with some soft and mild goat cheese to boiled potatoes. A little milk, butter, and some salt, plus some mashing, and you've got deliciousness.
I used the spring leeks in this Singaporean slow cooker pork roast. This recipe is quite simple and very delicious, and we used the meat to feed us in a variety of ways and for several days. You can find the recipe here. Note that I didn't add the almonds, and next time I make this, I will add carrots and pearl onions to the slow cooker. I would also reduce the soy sauce to 1/2 cup and use 1/2 cup stock.
I didn't use all of the rhubarb for the pickled rhubarb salad. In fact, I had so much rhubarb that I was able to make two desserts! I made this rhubarb and strawberry pie for Bobby's return from Athens. Something about the way to a man's heart is through his stomach...   :)
This dessert was more for me than Bobby since it features lavender. Inspired by this recipe, I made lavender biscuits (I used half rye flour and half white flour), and made a vanilla, strawberry, and rhubarb compote with the remaining rhubarb. Accompanied by some crème fraîche, this was a lovely dessert. Even Bobby, who claims to not like eating lavender, enjoyed it!
I also used my birthday gift from Bobby for the first time this week! Bobby bought me a beautiful pressure cooker. I'll be honest: I was a bit afraid of using it at first. I read the owner's manual (yep, my pots and pans have owner's manuels) and learned about the many ways I could burn myself (and I burn myself fairly frequently). However, new pressure cookers are a distant relative of the old models, which could easy blow up from too much pressure. In fact, my new toy served me quite well. I cooked dried beans, which I hadn't pre-soaked. Instead of taking 3+ hours in a regular pot, the pressure cooked cooked the beans in 30 minutes! And at the lowest stove setting! Talk about saving time and energy. I am going to make another pressure cooker meal tonight: I'm going to try to steam artichokes in it, and then I will try to make risotto, a dish with which I've never had much success.
Bobby is home for a bit between his Athens trip and his upcoming London trip. Athens has made quite the impression on Bobby, with frappes making the biggest impact. So Bobby has learned how to make frappes at home, and we even have the proper glasses for them! All the more reason for you, our dear reader, to visit us.