Zabou, 41 Essex Road

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Zabou, 41 Essex Road

I love walking around London only to be surprised to find an amazing mural or small bit of street art in the curious of places. I found this one by Zabou in Islington.  I was out in the neighborhood in the fresh of the New Year. Zabou’s website has some great images of her creating the stencil and installation with Pegasus.

I find the image appealing for the use of the Egyptian imagery against the cobalt blue color. I believe the center figure is made to resemble Rihanna. The composition is beautiful, interesting, and intriguing all at once.

Barbecued Pineapple Pork

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Disclaimer: this is not real BBQ. This is fake BBQ. This is the kind of BBQ you make during winter in your 44.5 square metre flat in London. Read: just add BBQ sauce.

With that out of the way, I can assure you that this easy meal hit all the right notes. For a relaxing night at home after a good day’s work, this plate is easy to make and is perfect for this time of year.

The meal began by picking up a fresh pineapple from the fruit stand downtown before heading home. The fruit is always fresh, ripe, and cheaper than you find in the grocery. One large, juicy, tangy tropical treat for £1. Perfect.

I seasoned two large cuts of pork with garlic, pepper, and smoked paprika. Pan seared each for two mins on either side and then put them in a Pyrex dish, add slices of the pineapple, and pop the dish in the oven for 20 mins.

For the rice, I use Tilda Pure Basmati rice.  I begin by shaving a small amount of Biona organic creamed coconut into the bottom of the pot and using that as an oil to warm the rice grains. I then cook as indicated on the package, adding shavings of fresh ginger to it as it boils. When close to ready, I zest and squeeze half a lemon in the pan and add a few more shavings of creamed coconut. The result is a fluffy, aromatic Basmati rice with a sweet coconut taste.

Rice and Coconut

I use the organic creamed coconut for several reasons. First, a little bit goes a long way. By adding small shavings of at the beginning and end of the rice preparation, I get the benefits of using a natural oil (and no addition oils) and the punch of huge coconut flavor at the end. This way, I don’t need to add any shaved, sugared coconut you buy packaged in the store – which adds a lot of unnecessary sugar to your white rice (the rice is after all, just sugar incarnate!)

Second, as a alternative to fresh coconut, coconut milk, or shaved sugar coconut – this creamed coconut is easy on the budget and lasts for a long time in the fridge. Fresh coconut would be lovely, but this meal is for a relaxing night at home after work – which for me, means a 30 min or less meal preparation. In short, my opportunity cost is too high to be shaving coconut after work.

November 2012 445I finish up the meal by lightly sautéing the thick cuts of the pineapple that I cooked with the pork with the barbecue sauce to quickly heat it up. Plate, serve, and enjoy!

I paired this dish with a glass of Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay. I like this pairing specifically for the complements between the peach notes in the wine and the flavor of the pork.

Ocado- Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2011 (Product Information)This meal is perfect for brightening up a winter evening. It changes things up a little with ease and reminds your palette of warm, sunny days to come.

Purple Hues

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November 2012 455Can anyone tell me what type of flours these beautiful purple buds are? They look as if they sprout up from little purple cabbages. I have seen them all over London in the late summer though winter, but I have never seen them before in the US. They are lovely and look so hardy. Any guesses?

Merry Christmas!

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The Somerset House

The Somerset House was the most iconic Christmas scene in London this year. Absolutely beautiful. I think a good working hypothesis is that during Christmas, London has more Christmas trees per square metre than any other city in the world. Banks, shopping centers, grocery stores, drug stores, and most public buildings have Christmas trees. But of all these, the Somerset House’s tree was the best. The most interesting and creative trees I saw this year were hung upside down outside the Axis Restaurant. And even Jack Daniels put up a tree in Covent Garden.

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Covent Garden

Earlier in the month, a friend and I ventured out on a Friday night to the V&A to see the Hollywood costumes and vintage ball gowns. Afterwords, we walked over to Harrod’s, enjoying the Christmas shopping splendor. My girlfriend picked up some Christmas pudding with Brandy Butter to take with her to Hong Kong. I opted for a few DIY luxury hot chocolate sticks from the chocolate counter.

Harrods

With our Christmas purchases in tow, we headed over to the Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Cafe and Terrace where we ordered up two of England’s classic Christmas drink – mulled wine. Each was served in a cute Santa mug, piping hot, with a cinnamon stick to stir.

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These are just some of the sights and sounds of the Christmas season we have seen about London. The season has been spectacular – full of surprises, beauty, new friendships, and new discoveries.

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Regent Street and Oxford Street

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Angel Islington

As for today, we have started the morning off with some Christmas music, breakfast, and mimosas.

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To all of our family, friends, and readers around the world, we are wishing you peace, prosperity, health and happiness throughout the new year! Cheers!

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Byron Burgers

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Burgers are for backyards, hanging out, and feeling right at home. Burgers remind me of the grill at my neighborhood pool growing up, Treecourt. They make me think of Sunday afternoons in San Jose, playing darts and sipping cold beer with David’s brothers, their wives, his parents, and friends from the neighborhood. They remind me that my Dad’s Weber stands at the height of culinary machinery.

Treecourt Swimming Pool

When I make burgers, I usually am making them for David. Fresh ingredients let the flavors stand on their own. (I usually add shallots, egg, and special seasonings to my patties).

Diptic

But back to the important stuff. Byron.

David and I ordered the same cheeseburger – Monterrey Jack, medium.  IMHO, Jack might be one of the tastiest and underrated cheeses for cheeseburgers. Fries to share. Chocolate milk-shake.

We weren’t settled on the shake when we ordered, so David asked the waiter:
“Is the shake thick?”

“It’s made with four scoops of ice cream.”

“Oh.” So yeah, we laughed. It’s thick.

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Everything was amazing, and I don’t say that lightly. There is a reason this place gets a five star rating. The burger was cooked to a perfect medium pink, with the cheese flowing over. And the bun? The bun has the ability to kill a good burger and usually it does. Another reason why homemade burgers trump restaurants nine times out of ten. This bun was perfect: held its own and didn’t break down under pressure, but the amount of bread didn’t overtake the meat (crucial). The fries came our crispy – not greasy – and paired perfectly with the chocolate shake. And yes, the shake was killer good.

Early December 054 Thanks, Byron. We know where to find you when our memory needs refreshing come late winter.

Borough Market Harvest

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I thought it might be nice to post some photos of all of the bounty of October at the Borough Market.  Every time I enter the market, I am overwhelmed by the sights, smells, and lovely ideas of what I might make with all that is available.

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Figs! Beautiful figs. I have been meaning to recreate a dish of bacon wrapped figs I had with some good friends at Abigail in Hermosa Beach (although it is no longer on their exquisite menu). If ever in Hermosa Beach, I highly recommend Abigaile.  The food was amazing, the atmosphere was great, and the service was impeccable.

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Seasonal colors of gourds, squash, roots, and stems. And decadent bites of apricots and sugared sweets. 303310306312

….and Cheese! Glorious Cheese! Huge wheels of aged Comte. I purchased a small wedge, some ‘Big Jesus’ sausage, and 1/4 a loaf of French countryside bread. We brought our good home, paired the lovely flavors of fresh, quality ingredients with a deep Cabernet. Perfect. 315

Admiralty Arch

I didn’t want November to escape me completely. It has been a month of settling in, a month of work, a month of getting acquainted with this new city of mine.

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November has been a wonderful month for walking through London on the cool, clear evenings.  Both the above and below shots were taken one evening when David and I walked though Trafalgar Square and down to the River Thames, smoking good cigars given to us by a friend who visited in October. 476

Above is a view of Admiralty Arch, the 100-year-old landmark at the eastern end of the Mall.  Until recently, the building housed government offices, but as part of a government programme to sell off parts of its multibillion-pound property portfolio, it sold a 125-year lease over the building to a property developer for redevelopment into a luxury hotel.

Rafael Serrano, a Spanish investor, purchased the lease for £60 million. Serrano is the name behind the new Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. Many have called the new hotel vulgar and gaudy, leading to the press terming Serrano’s new project the “Vulgarity Arch”.

I, for one, could not be more pleased.  Rule of thumb: the less property held by the state, the better.  The Admiralty Arch was commissioned by Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, and completed in 1912.  The Latin inscription along the top reads:

 : ANNO : DECIMO : EDWARDI : SEPTIMI : REGIS :
: VICTORIÆ : REGINÆ : CIVES : GRATISSIMI : MDCCCCX :

In the tenth year of King Edward VII,
to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910

In other words, one politician built this expensive building to commemorate another politician and paid for it with money taken from average Brits. Since it was completed, the building has cost approximately £1 million of taxpayer money per year to maintain and has had virtually no public access. Only select politicians and a few public officials in the Cabinet Office have used the building and only as a policy engine room of Whitehall.

I am excited to see what  Serrano does with the beautiful 147,300 sq ft he has to work with. The property will remains a spectacular sight to the onlooker from the outside, but perhaps soon it will be a place for someone to go for a romantic cocktail, a fancy cigar, or to celebrate a special occasion with high tea. Who knows, with two of its eight levels underground, perhaps one will be transformed into a 1920s speakeasy or state of the art spa.