Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Afternoon Tea

The English are obsessed by tea. This is particularly apparent to an outsider like me. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone at my work make a cup of coffee, yet we do endless ‘tea rounds’ all day. Back in New Zealand, getting a coffee machine in the office was a much planned for and talked about event, and resulted in heated discussion around the coffee machine, about the coffee machine, which beans to use in the coffee machine, who would clean the coffee machine and how we ever coped without the sacred coffee machine. Not so in London. It’s all about a nice cup of English Breakfast, with milk and sugar.

Not that I am complaining. I enjoy a cup of tea. I particularly enjoy the English tradition of a proper afternoon tea, which involves taking tea beyond the level of milk and two. While doing a little research for this blog post, I discovered some information about the traditions of tea. I thought that any posh tea with pretty china, and scones, was called a ‘high tea’. In fact, ‘high tea’ is taken after 5pm, whereas afternoon tea is, well, the afternoon version.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

I ♥ Paris

I love the dirtiness of Paris. It is apparent when you first roll in on the Eurostar at Gare du Nord. The brutal, stained, matt concrete floor. Dogs barking in the distance, as if I was standing in a lonesome dark neighbourhood. The ticka-ticka-ticka-ticka of the old-fashioned flipping arrivals and departures board, which they have stubbornly refused to upgrade to digital, getting louder in rushing waves as trains arrive and depart. The Haagen Dazs ice cream store that greets you, looking temporary and kit-set. The chill in the air, the low light, and the feeling of having to watch your bags. So vastly different from neat St Pancras International in London, with its smooth tiled floors, perfect lighting, carefully chosen shops and cafes.

I am very fortunate to have one of my closest friends living in Paris. Which means frequent trips on the Eurostar to visit; I have been three times this year already, most recently last weekend. It was cold, colder than London, and gave me my first feeling of winter for the season.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Charity shopping in Kensington

People buy me recipe books for my birthday and Christmas, which I love. And I admit to browsing the sticky jackets of second hand cook books in charity shops - something which I indulged in today, whilst second hand shopping in Kensington. There is something I adore about the pictures and the words of recipe books, even though I rarely use them except for baking. Sometimes, when I’m tired and feel like zoning out, I sit down with a cook book and leaf through. Look at the pictures, skim through the recipes. I guess like other people do with fashion and gossip magazines. Is that weird? I have never actually admitted that to anyone, though I’m sure many people have seen me doing it.

On Thursday night last week, we went to dinner at our favourite local pizza place, Delicious. This tiny 7-table restaurant is actually much more than a pizza place, they have a lot of other very delectable sounding things on the menu – classics that I’m sure will be done brilliantly like spaghetti cabonara and fish cooked in lemon sauce. But, I cannot go past good pizza, when I know it is excellent. We started with a salad, ‘Caprese’, which I pronounced completely wrong and the waitress had trouble understanding me. The simplicity of Italian food is exquisite; good fresh tomatoes, basil and a little other random greenery, a ball of fresh mozzarella that disintegrates when you slice it, sweet olive oil and salt. Beautiful.

After pizza, which was as usual, wonderful, we attempted to finish the enormous carafe of wine we had ordered. We eventually got bored of this and ordered some tiramisu, £4.80. This was a prettily-presented tiramisu. Sweet mascarpone and cream mix, with bitter drenched savoiardi and a good coat of cocoa. The texture of the coffee-soaked biscuit was complemented beautifully by the light cream mixture. We didn’t manage to finish our carafe of wine, though we tried.