Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Gail's Bakery

I'm a little obsessed with croissants and bakeries in general, so when I discovered Gail's Bakery in London, I was tickled pink. It's exactly the type of place I love to go for a weekend breakfast with rich, creamy cappuccinos (even though they're nonfat), and literally every type of buttery pastry you could imagine. Kind of reminds me of Gayle's Bakery back in Capitola, but with a proper accent.

My favourite indulgences include the morning buns, croissants and quiches, but of course everything else on display looks delectable. The locations are scattered around the city so you can go a few tube stops and still get your fix...definitely pop by if you're in the city!

[Image and recipe via Gail's Bakery]

Monday, 26 March 2012

Scenes From The Week

This past week was a whirlwind of family and friends, and the gorgeous English Spring weather was in full swing so we spent just about every moment soaking up the sun. St. James park was filled with tourists and Londoners alike on Saturday enjoying picnics and ice lollies (love that word!). And on Saturday night we ended up at The Jam Tree for drinks after an incredible dinner at Tom's Kitchen - definitely go for simple but gourmet meal if you're in Chelsea. We indulged in Sunday brunch at the Breakfast Club in Soho - a popular spot with everything from banana bacon French toast to a classic English breakfast. A bit earlier in the week, Jim's aunt and uncle were in town and we showed them around the Oxford Circus shopping area and went to dinner at the eclectic Bob Bob Ricard where you can push a button for a glass of champagne. How fabulous! To top it off, we saw a vintage Fiat in Notting Hill. With our visitors back in town on Thursday, it's going to be a good week!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Little Bit of City

There are definitely times when I miss my city by the bay and all of my wonderful friends back home. That's why I'm so excited to have some of our best friends from San Francisco and family from Santa Cruz visiting us this week! Can’t wait to show them around the iconic sites, eat pub food, watch football and hopefully enjoy some good to come soon!

[Images from my beautiful sister]

Friday, 16 March 2012

Vagabond Vino

Ever since we moved to Fulham, Jim and I had been wanting to go to this cosy wine tasting room and shop right down the street called Vagabond. We finally decided to go in last month for a leisurely glass of Cabernet, and now we're hooked. The concept for the store is actually pretty innovative, unlike any I've seen before. You pay £3 for an Oyster-type card (one you can top up with more money as you go), and then you top up your card with £10 or £20, however much you want to keep on there for tastings in the store. And the prices for pours are actually pretty reasonable, ranging from 50p - £2 for a taste, and £3 - £15 for a full glass.

We met the owner, Steve, and learned that he had these machines custom made for the store. They allow you to use your Oyster-type card to pour a taste or full glass of featured wine, which is so convenient if you're looking to buy a bottle and you're able to have a taste to make sure you love it.

The wines are separated out into types of reds (bold, spicy, elegant, vibrant) and whites (rich, subtle, aromatic and crisp), making it easy to navigate based on your preference. For each category there's about 20 wines from old and new world regions. We've tried so many yummy blends from rich Napa Cabernets to oakey French Chardonnays.

There's also a scrumptious small bites menu which we'll have to try next time we go for an afternoon drink. It may not be Napa, but this is definitely our new go-to wine tasting spot! 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Love lemon, love blueberry love cake. This lemon blueberry pound cake looks incredible and is super easy to make...the type of casual recipe you whip up on a weekend. I found it on Sweet Pea's Kitchen, but have made the original version she adapted from Ina Garten a few times and it turned out so well. The glaze on top adds this extra layer of sweetness that's perfect with the tart lemon. Here's how you make it...

For the loaf
- 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For the lemon syrup
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup sugar

For the lemon glaze
- 1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes and then remove from the heat and set aside. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf and brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. And let the cake cool completely.

To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden about 15 minutes before serving.


[Image and recipe via Sweet Pea's Kitchen]

Friday, 9 March 2012

Punts & Bumps in Cambridge

Last weekend Jim and I took a day trip to Cambridge to tour the well-known university town and visit Jim's cousin Kate, who's getting her MBA there. Little did we know that it was Lent Bumps day, where the different colleges within University of Cambridge compete in a rowing competition along the river Cam. It turned out to be such an unexpectedly fun cultural experience cheering on the team and drinking beers at a quaint little pub on the river. 

Next, we strolled through the bustling town and different college campuses which are all within walking distance. Everyone bikes around and there are loads of nice shops along the high street - it seems like such a vibrant, lovely place to live. And it's so interesting to see how deeply rooted the traditions are in college life...each college has its own crest and church!

I loved watching the famous punting tours along the river near the college backs, where the University of Cambridge colleges line the river. Punting tours are almost like gondola rides that you can hire to row you down the river. We are definitely going to have to come back during summer river drinking rose! Here are a few photos from the day...

Cambridge Lent Bumps (rowing competition between the colleges)
Sidney College at University of Cambridge
Punt tours on the river (almost like gondola rides in Italy)
Punting down the river...can't wait to do this in the summer!
Loving this gorgeous town
Trinity College campus

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Love Goop + Gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow is one of my top style icons. She is just so flawless in every way and I love her weekly Goop newsletters about her favourite foods, fashions and travels. Last week's newsletter was about key pieces for the spring season and I was obsessed with all of the looks she put forward (see above). Makes me so excited for spring! Gwyneth (yes, I guess I'm on a first name basis with her) mixes high fashion plus lower priced items with each look, which makes it a bit more accessible for everyone. I'm loving the chic grey blazer and nude skirt at the top and the flirty black shorts jumpsuit, and that burnt orange fitted dress the striped number at the bottom are so hot. All of the clothes, shoes and accessories from each look are on the luxury shopping site Happy shopping!

[Image via GOOP]

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dining at Gordon Ramsay

We spent last Thursday indulging in an incredible seven course meal at Ramsay Restaurant in Chelsea, thanks to our friend Matt who gave us a gift certificate as a wedding gift! The decadent food and thoughtful service created the ultimate dining experience. The wait staff think of every single detail you can imagine, from offering unsalted or salted butter with your bread and racing to fold your napkin if you get up, to explaining every last detail of each dish. We were living it up!

The meal started with an amuse bouche of miniature crunchy lobster and avocado cones, pillowy pouches of artichoke, basil and parmesan and scotch eggs. The two I tried were delicious, although I steered clear of the scotch eggs. Next, I had pan-fried sea scallops from the Isle of Skye with heritage apples, fresh walnuts, celery and cider emulsion. I never knew the combination of cinnamon and apples could pair so well with seafood, but it does. The second starter was Ramsay’s signature dish, the ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon poached in a light bisque with a chervil velouté. The ravioli is literally stuffed with the freshest seafood that you swirl around in the buttery sauce...mouthwatering.

For the main course, I substituted the pigeon and lamb for fillet of lemon sole with butter poached Scottish langoustines, caviar, mushroom duxelle and watercress sauce. I must say, I’m now a big fan of caviar! This dish was so light but also full of flavour...the lemon sole is rolled up with delicious spices and the watercress sauce serves as the perfect compliment. 

Finally, we moved on to dessert starting with a “milkshake” of mango, jasmine and passion fruit soup with a cream topping. It tasted almost like a mango lassie. Next we had prune crème brûlée with Granny Smith apple juice. The apple juice was just the right amount of tart and was a surprisingly refreshing pair with the creaminess of the crème brûlée. The third dessert was a lemonade parfait with honey, bergamot and sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet. The presentation was beautiful with the candied honey encircling the lemonade parfait, which was almost the consistency of a semifreddo. We ended the meal with an extra surprise dessert of white chocolate covered strawberry ice cream balls and rich dark chocolate bites. 

The maître d was such a sweet French man and allowed us to tour the kitchen before we left. We got to meet the head chef, a lovely Irish woman called Clare Smyth who's obviously very talented. All in all it was maybe the best meal I’ve ever had, and after three hours, definitely the longest. If you're looking for a fancy dining experience in London, this is the place to go!

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