Tuesday, March 11, 2014

London Guide: Eat & Be Eaten

The most important part of any trip is the FOOD, and my belly was full for 5 days straight.
We stayed at Hotel Belgraves on the border of Chelsea and Belgravia, a posh neighborhood lined with embassies.
We chose to take a walk around the neighborhood and stumble upon something for our first meal. We ended up being stereotypes eating fish & chips in a pub. The Wilton Arms was straight out of a storybook, and the food hit the spot for our first meal. A must-see destination, not quite, but it was cute.
On our first night in England, we went to Winchester to see a band - Mr. Fonty was there for work after all, so we had to squeeze a little work into all the fun. We were both picturing Winchester to be a sleepy British town, but it was actually a really cute, bustling town. After a tepid pint at a pub, we got some Thai food at Bangkok Brasserie. I ordered a yellow curry with chicken and mango, supposedly created especially for Colin Firth. It was as delicious as Mr. Darcy himself. After dinner we headed to the venue, The Railway, a packed dive bar with a wide range of patrons. The beer was actually cold, so we guzzled many a pint while enjoying the bands.
Wednesday while walking around Covent Garden, we popped into Polpo, an adorable Italian restaurant. In addition to a fabulous house red wine, the menu features many small plates, so you can try a lot of different items. 
Mr. Fonty and I both got a meal I will be making at home - The Meatball Mash. It is a flatbread sandwich with meatballs, cheese, and tomato sauce. So incredibly delicious. 
We had a forgettable meal at Mother Mash in Soho. The menu was simple: Choose your mash, Choose your meat pie or sausage and Choose your gravy. The delivery left something lacking. We picked the spot, because we needed something quick before the soccer game. Thank goodness for the Curry Chips at Wembley. 
Curry is more English than fish & chips these days, so on Thursday when I was on my own shopping, I picked Dishoom in Covent Garden.
The decor is more French bistro than hookah lounge, and the menu is a little watered down. But this suited my American tastes perfectly. I had their famous chai which was lovely. I started with the calamari, and gobbled up an appetizer portion to myself. It was fried perfectly and drizzled with a some sort of sweet sauce. For my entree I had the house specialty Black Daal, and while I am not normally a lentil person, this dish was fabulous. Be sure to get the naan and chutney sauces. Each one was better than the next.   
While I was at Dishoom, Mr. Fonty was in Nottinghill, and ate Thai at the many times recommended, Churchill Arms.  He said he would continue the chain of recommendation. 
Thursday night, we went to the little sister restaurant of Michelin star-rated Pollen Street Social, Little Social. The narrow restaurant is lined with red booth filled with attractive, young Brits. We arrived at 9:30, and the restaurant was packed. 
I ordered the Cod with cockles and cauliflower, and it is one of the best things I have ever eaten. I'm big on forcing people to try a bite of my meal, and I wouldn't share a single morsel of this plate of deliciousness. However, my dinner partners said their meat was a bit tough... but I could barely hear them through my food ecstasy. 
Friday we bummed around Nottinghill, and had lunch at the Portobello Rd. outpost of Pizza East. 
I am pinning images from this restaurant onto my "future dream kitchen" board. It is perfection, just like the food. We ordered a pizza and the mac n cheese. I know pizza is in the name, but this mac n cheese is not to be missed, and this is coming from someone who ate nothing but mac for a good 5 years of my life. 
Pizza East Mac n Cheese
Friday night, Mr. Fonty had an artist playing in Islington, sort of the Brooklyn of London. This area is great if you want a delicious, less expensive meal followed by some bar hopping. I did my Texas, BBQ eating husband right when I picked Smokehouse for dinner.
This restaurant is fairly new, but it was packed, including its vine covered outdoor patio. Smokehouse has an extensive beer list and I was even able to find a red wine to my liking. We started with the Brisket Roll which was basically a ball of brisket, breaded, and deep fried. And, yes, it was delicious. For our entrees, I got the Short Rib Bourguignon, Mr. Fonty got the Smoked Duck with Kimchi, and we split a side of the Korean Pulled Pork - because we didn't have enough meat in front of us. The Korean Pulled Pork was definitely the stand out with Mr. Fonty even declaring it the best thing he's ever eaten. He enjoyed his duck, and I think anyone else would have liked my short rib, but I am not a huge fan of smoke flavor, and this dish was very smokey. The real standout of our meal was our jovial waiter. He made me want to saddle up at the bar and throw back pints at Smokehouse all night long. 

While it feels like we did nothing but eat, there are still so many places that were recommended that we didn't get to. Many of my favorite spots from the trip were on a friend's recommendation. Here's the rest of his extensive list: 
Grain Store: Kings Cross, Modern European
Bistro Bruno Loubet: St. John's Square, French
Caravan: Exmouth Market or Kings Cross, great brunch
Shrimpy's: Kings Cross, Latin American
Pollen Street Social: Mayfair, Michelin star Modern British Luxe
Social Eating House: Soho, Sister restaurant to Pollen Street Social & Little Social, British/modern European
Ottolenghi: Several Locations, Mediterranean
One Leicester Street (British) / Talented Mr Fox (cocktails upstairs)
Mayfields: Hackney, British/Modern European
28-50: Marylebone, Modern European & Wine Bar
Roti Chai: Marylebone, Indian Street Food
Malabar: Nottinghill, Indian
La Bodega Negra: Bloomsbury, Mexican
Pizarro: Bermondsey, Spanish / Jose: Bermondsey, Tapas & Sherry
Salt Yard: Fitzrovia, Tapas
Barrica: Fitzrovia, Tapas
Barrafina: Soho, Tapas
Burger & Lobster: Several Locations, (duh!)
MEATliquor: Marylebone, Much buzzed about burgers
Hawksmoor: Covent Garden, Steakhouse

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guide to London: Sight to Be Seen

I could honestly write endlessly about London. It is, hands down, one of my most favorite trips ever. 
Before we left, I reached out to a lot of people for advice on what to do and where to eat & drink. I thought I would pass along where we went and all the tips I received. Since I have so much to share, I am breaking it up into 2 posts. Today focuses on all the historic sights in London. 
My friend, Hadley, passed along a great walk where you can see many of the sights via foot. Our weather was insanely beautiful - like low 60's and sunny every day, beautiful - so walking was exactly what we were looking for. 
Hadley's Tour De London: 
Begin at the London Eye (Hadley recommended taking a trip if the line wasn't too long. I personally am way too antsy and anti-social to be in a glass bubble with strangers for an hour, so I passed.)
Walk along the Westminster Bridge which crosses the River Thames. From the bridge you can get beautiful shots of Big Ben & Parliment
Walk past Parliment - while checking out all the super tinted Rolls Royces heading in and out - towards Westminster Abbey
Sadly, the line to Westminster Abbey was really long, so Mr. Fonty wouldn't let me go in. Next trip... 
After visiting Westminster Abbey, continue towards the Horse Guards Parade (Olympic beach volleyball site and where Henry VIII held all his sporting tournaments)
Walk through the Horse Guards Parade, and cross the street to St. James Park. St. James Park is beautiful. All the daffodils were blooming during our visit.
 The maps are easy to follow and the trails will lead you to Buckingham Palace. During the winter, the changing of the guard happens every other day, so be sure to check the days before your visit.
We actually did Hadley's tour in reverse (beginning at Buckingham Palace and making our way to the London Eye). From the Big Ben side of Westminster Bridge, we continued our journey towards Trafalger Square and Covent Gardens
Trafalger Square is home to The National Gallery. Covent Gardens was one of my favorite neighborhoods.The area feels quaint with its cute square and tiny one way streets, but don't let the quiet streets fool you. They are brimming with shops, both small, local boutiques and large, luxury brand stores. My favorite stop was Cambridge Satchel Company where I picked up a custom embossed little number.  
 The next day Mr. Fonty had some business in Nottinghill. Portobello Road is just as adorable as Hugh Grant would lead us to believe. Some parts of the market are run of the mill street fair selling cheap clothes and incense, but the blocks with the fresh produce and breads are worth a visit. The shops gear more towards antiques and cheesy tourist memorabilia. 
From Nottinghill, we wandered our way through town, and found an entrance to Kensington Gardens which borders Hyde Park. There are maps throughout the city which make navigating pretty easy - even for someone as directionally challenged as me. From Kensington Gardens, I abandoned Mr. Fonty and toured Kensington Palace. I thought Kensington Palace was great. I had a waiting husband outside and was given only 25 minutes to tour, so I had quite the abridged version. I noticed some people who seemed to have tour guides. If I could do it again, I'd either get a guide or a tour book. There isn't much British history explanation in the exhibits. 
 The rooms are so beautiful. I think the King's State Apartments was my favorite area. 
In addition to hundreds of years old palaces, London has tons of shopping. I had a lot of fun exploring Liberty and all the shops on Carnaby St. 

Regent St. and Sloane St. are mainly filled with deisgner shops. The windows are beautiful, but the price tags are a little out of my reach. These streets are also big and busy. If you enjoy shopping on 5th Ave or the Magnificent Mile, you'll like these areas. I've always preferred smaller shops, so for me, this ended up being pretty skippable - with the exception of H&M's big sister & Other Stories on Regent St.  
Mr. Fonty's one requirement was to see a soccer game. He is a huge fan, and spends most lunch hours watching dvr'd games at home. We lucked out with an England vs. Denmark friendly at Wembley Stadium. We've seen games in Croatia, Turkey, and now England. 
The game was a ton of fun if you get a chance to see one. They also have the most delcious stadium snack - "Curry Chips" French Fries with a drizzle of curry sauce. What I wouldn't give for an order right about now. 
Since our trip was so short, there was a lot we didn't get to see. Here are some of the recommendations we missed:
The Tate Modern (optional activity: cross Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral where you can climb to the top of the dome)
The Tower Bridge and the Crown Jewels
Churchill Museum
Kew Botanical Garderns

Is there anything you would add? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

He Has Risen

Admittedly, I log far too many hours in front of the TV, and often find myself double and tripling up on dvr tapings. It's embarrassing, and instead of adding shows, I should be deleting, but I have one more to recommend.
My very stylish and talented friend, Emmie, is the costume designer on an awesome (looking) new show - ABC's Resurrection.

Based on the book, The Returned, Resurrection follows families in a Missouri town who's deceased loved ones come back into their lives.
Here's an excerpt from one of the featured families:
An 8-year-old American boy wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia, and an Immigration agent, J. Martin Bellamy, takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by an elderly couple, Henry and Lucille Langston, who lost their son, Jacob, more than 30 years ago. While they look different, young Jacob recognizes them as his parents. Those closest to the family try to unravel this impossible mystery — but this boy who claims to be the deceased Jacob knows secrets about his own death that no one else knows.
Chills! I am seriously so excited for this show. 
Resurrection airs Sunday, March 9 at 9pm. Set your DVRs!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Red Carpet Round Up

I have to say, for the most part, the Oscar fashion was a bit of a snooze. No one was that bad or great. I wish we saw some of Imperfect Polish's picks. 

Best Dressed: Yes, the cape trend is a bit worn out, but Kate Hudson looked in-saaan in Atelier Versace. (And for the record, it's not a full cape, but sort of a back drape) It's exactly what I would picture Andie Anderson wearing to the Oscars. See the pretty detail shots HERE. This is how a girl wears a plunging neckline (I'll get to you in a minute, Lupita.) I'm not really sure why Kate Hudson is presenting at the Oscars, but in a dress like this, she can stay. 
Best Dressed As Well: BAM!! Now that's a woman, folks. 
Charlize Theron, Oscars
Best Dressed Couple: Wow... This is one good looking couple. I am obsessed with Olivia Wilde's Versace dress. It is a gentle reminder that I will never look even remotely this good when pregnant, or ever. 
Blue Moon:  I know I am going to be in the minority here, but I didn't love Lupita Nyong'o's Prada gown. She suffers from Sheryl Crow syndrome, where her chest is too muscular (bony?) for the deep V. I have a serious love affair with knife-pleat chiffon dresses, and this dress flowed beautifully, but maybe she should stick to structured gowns. While cute from the front, the side angle of the headband on her short hair was odd looking. It reminded me of when people put headbands on their bald babies in an effort to tell world 'It's a girl'. 
Oops, I did it again: Amy Adams looked banging in Gucci... from the neck down. Once again she lets her hair ruin her whole look. Is that a high side ponytail bun? If you get a close up shot of the hair, there is also a strange bang wave - we all know how Amy never misses an opportunity to go 1920's. Amy Adams needs to stop being in films, so I can stop getting frustrated by her complete lack of style.
Best Styling: This picture does not do Naomi Watts justice. She looked fabulous. Her necklace made this dress, almost looking like an embellished collar. I also like the black shoes with the black and white bag. (I'll ignore the fact that she looks better with her hair pulled back). Presenter Perfection. 
My Best Fried: My BFF, Anna, was presenting at the Oscars. Her dress was made for tearing up the after parties. I'm her +1. 
Spawn of Crazy: If my dad was publicly writing diatribes about leaving the public eye, I guess I'd dye my hair white and shred my Oscar gown too. Can someone tell me why Ireland Baldwin was on the carpet at all? 
Better On the Hanger: Guiliana flashed a glimpse of this dress on E! News (I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit to watching every day on Friday.) This dress was so pretty on the hanger that I hoped she would wear it, and then she did... And then she did. This dress swallows her. I can't decide if it would be prettier with a longer bodice or less skirt or if it was tighter or if it was left on the hanger where it looked so stunning. 
Welcome Back, Ann Hathaway:  Guess in your spotlight downtime you have been rehearsing for your role as a Lesbian in Shining Armor. 
Lamest Hype Machine: I don't know about you, but I am so over Brad & Angelina fever (my impeccable immune system actually helped me never catch it in the first place). Brad Pitt hasn't been attractive in a really long time - and his current don't 'do does nothing to change this fact. While Angelina's dress is pretty, it's fit is distracting. She must have been too busy bringing water to her future adoptive children in Nairobi to have a proper dress fitting. I think we are 1cm away from a nip-slip or her revealing Billy Bob Thorton's blood vile necklace. 
Things That Make You Go "hmmmmm": Matthew McConaughey's wife's dress is a glorified pink blanket, and yet, she looks stunning, and makes me want to wear my coverlet to my brother's wedding this fall. 
Back to Bed: While Matthew McConaughey's wife committed to her blanket, Penelope Cruz got nervous, and, at the last minute, decided to scrap the comforter and tie just a bed sheet to her arm. She then tied a ribbon around her waist to distract your eye. Penelope, your slight of hand tricks failed this time. 
Said 'Yes' to the Dress: I can see the scene of Jena Dewan Tatum finding THE dress. The team at Kleinfeld's had a morning meeting about helping celebrity customers. The store was a buzz with excitement. Pnina was in the shop, and she talked JDT into the see through lace bustier dress favored by aging second-time around bides and/or sexy princess brides. Jena was all set with the dress when Vera swooped in, and told her it would be impossible to do the alterations in time. Thank goodness Randy was there to save the day with an off the rack sample Reem Acra dress. The rest is Oscar history. 
So Pretty I Fell Asleep:  I was watching some show where someone was saying they were excited to see what Jessica Biel would wear to the Oscars. What?! Has Jessica Biel ever worn something exciting? This dress is a snooze (and sort of gives her the illusion of a spare tire), just like her. 
Jessica Biel, Oscars
When Really Beautiful People Go Goth: Not since Stassi has someone looked so much better as a blonde. Seriously, can someone tell me what happened to beautiful, stunning, adorable, etc, etc Margot Robbie? Is this an Ali G stunt? 
The Middle of the Pack: They all looked fine, not great, just fine. What more can you say? 
oscars 2014 jennifer garner red carpet
Julia Roberts, Oscars

Who are your picks?! Please share