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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A friend of mine recently announced that he was headed to Boston, Massachusetts for a couple of weeks. As the resident Boston expert (you get that label after four years of university there) we got to chatting about why I loved Boston.

Introding other Brits to Annapolis' delights

Introding other Brits to Annapolis' delights

One of the most important things to me when traveling is food. Pretty sure I’m not alone there and often, from the places I’ve lived, it’s the thing I remember and miss the most.

In Thailand I was all about the Som Tam salad, from Australia I miss the best barbeques I’ve ever had and in the USA? It’s all about crabs. I was an East Coast girl, from New York to Maryland to Massachusetts, and the East Coast knows how to do a good crab feast.

I’d been thinking about them already when my friend returned from her holiday to Florida talking all about her new find – Joe’s Stone Crab. Apparently some crab claws to go, eaten on the cliffs by the beach is up there with top meal experiences around. I almost had my flights to Miami booked, but when it comes down to it, I’m still faithful to Boston and Annapolis.

Sorry Mr Crab...

Sorry Mr Crab...

New England knows its seafood, and crabs are no exception. Legal Sea Foods restaurant is nothing but amazing. Enough said. If you’re in Boston, there are no excuses.

But my favourite crab feasting destination of them all? Drum roll… Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but all Annapolitans (that’s people native to Annapolis, Maryland) should know about Cantler’s. Hard to find by car, but easy if you’re on a boat and you know the way… A big wooden bench, some newspaper, a bucket, a hammer and a big pile of Maryland Blue Crabs. Mouth. Watering. Summer is coming, it is JUNE now (terrifying) and I may love a London summer, but nothing defines summer like a good messy crab feast at Cantler’s.

Working on a way to get them shipped over now…

*This post was sponsored by cheapflights.co.uk however they did not influence the writing of the content.

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A few days ago, I had dinner at Corrigan’s restaurant in Mayfair. A fantastic place run by Richard Corrigan – a fun, outspoken Irishman who knows his food. I was there to meet Nadim Sadek, the owner of Inish Turk Beg – a quiet little island off the West coast of Ireland.

The night kicked off with champagne and canapés to break the ice with the other travel industry guests. I found myself talking to two women as we bonded over our love for the parmesan encrusted loveliness that kept appearing on the trays…

Inish Turk Beg. Image courtesy of www.inishturkbeg.com

Inish Turk Beg: Image courtesy of http://www.inishturkbeg.com

I was assigned my seat at the foot of the table which felt strange, but luckily all the talk was happening at the other end where all eyes were on Nadim as he told his story of making his millions, leaving his business and buying a rundown island almost on a whim after deciding that it was important for his children to be more connected to their Irish heritage. Now, Inish Turk Beg is a beautiful piece of Irish wild land where Nadim and the rest of the Inish Turk Beg citizens raise horses, distill their own special brand of whiskey in beautiful handblown glass bottles, create their own style of amazing Irish music and generally live their lives completely.

As I enjoyed my steak & kidney pie and fillet of beef, the whiskey was passed around and enjoyed, perhaps a touch too much.. By the time dinner was over, and Richard Corrigan joined us from the kitchen an unknown number of champagne and wine bottles had already been emptied. By the time the restaurant was shut down, the whiskey bottle was dry too.

A few years ago, I spent a very short weekend in Dublin and otherwise have never been on Irish soil. Next week, I’m headed to Cork for a few days (thank you Bank Holiday) and, while Cork and Inish Turk Beg are not comparable places, the food, the company, the whiskey, the music, and the spirit of Inish Turk Beg and Nadim’s passion have me really excited to at least see a taste of that in the Irish countryside.

Hopefully it won’t be long until I can get myself a ‘lungful of life‘ on Inish Turk Beg itself, but meanwhile I’ll be sure to let you know how my own Irish experience goes next week.

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Scandinavian Antics in Sweden

Before I could get on the boat, I had to don my wind and waterproof coverall. I felt a bit like a balloon but then again so did everybody else, and it was actually pretty comfy. Then, after a little safety briefing by our skipper, Henrik, (it’s like riding a horse apparently), I donned my ski goggles, zipped up my marshmallow suit and climbed aboard the RIB boat. That’s Rigid Inflatable Boat. I was off for a splash (sorry) of island hopping in West Sweden.

Once upon a time, apparently, the sea was silver with herring. That’s according to the locals we meet on the islands. There was a time when you could dip buckets into the water and they’d come up brimming with the country’s national dish. The fish have come and gone from Sweden’s west coast, but now they’re back (in slightly less legendary amounts) they make for a great dish and another reason to head this way.

My first stop was Pater Noster. Small enough to throw a stone over (almost) I enjoyed a glass of bubbly at the top of an iconic 19th century red iron lighthouse to accompany the amazing 360 degree views. After exploring the island (hunting down the outdoor hot tub) and enjoying some warm fish soup, it was off again to Marstrand Island.

Marstrand is definitely a summer playground for the Swedish. The island was full of picture perfect white houses with red roofs and stunning flower gardens. Along the harbour, people were sitting out in the sun enjoying themselves at the cafés or shopping in the boutiques (I gave in to my retail addiction too…) before walking up to the fort to explore and climb the walls for sunbathing on the grass, or going down to the beaches and harbours around each corner of coast.

Leaving Marstrand, the RIB boat caused quite the stir as it sped between the yachts on our way to Åstol for more amazing seafood (including my first taste of herring) before heading to the lovely Salt & Sill Restaurant and Hotel for yes, more food. I lost count of how many meals I ate in one day. They served us one of their classic meals– three bite sized portions of different herring dishes, paired with three glasses of schnapps – a different flavour to match each different herring.

Then we were singing traditional schnapps songs, drinking our shots and enjoying our fish. A hot coffee on the balcony wrapped up in a blanket was the perfect unwind after all that eating. Salt & Sill is home to Sweden’s first floating sauna too which you can hire for the night. You’ll be out at sea for a night of steaming away, bubbles on the balcony and sleeping to the sound of nothing but the local seals. Pretty great, right? After my coffee I was on my way to my own hotel’s sauna…

At Björholmens Marina hotel, after dropping my bags in my waterfront studio room, I got into my new swimsuit courtesy of a Marstrand boutique, wrapped up in my fluffy robe and headed down the boardwalk along the harbour’s waters to the sauna. But before I steamed away, there was one thing I had to do first. Go swimming. To make the sauna all that more welcome, I first climbed down the ladder, shut my eyes and leaped into the chilly Swedish waters. Refreshing just about covers it. But it’s all relative – the sauna is open year round, and in the heart of winter, the hotel cuts holes in the frozen water for you to jump in – so the water I was paddling in was practically balmy. I still shivered. The sauna was definitely welcome.

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A day in the life…

Spending this past weekend on the beaches outside of Canberra with four Australians was a lesson on how the average Aussie spends his/her summer days. It’s a grueling routine. I shall provide an approximate outline so that you see what I’ve had to go through these past few days.

Wake up early (between eight and nine, or later if your Aussie is more relaxed…), have a cup of coffee.

Collect your thoughts and throw on some ‘swimmers’ (or bathing suit, swimsuit, bikini, or your own preferred term).

Walk down your back garden to the beach either empty handed, or with a kayak, body board or surf board. At this point you’re fully expected to jump right into the ocean. Australia is famous for surfing for a reason – I haven’t seen many (or any?) beaches in Australia yet that didn’t have waves that tower over my head. Also – Oz is surrounded by very large oceans and isn’t all that far away from a very large and icy continent, so the water? Freezing. On Sunday I was told ‘the water was great’ just before my entire body turned numb during my ten minute dip. So, I suppose all I’m saying is, be sure you’re comfortable with you ability to hold your breath as you kick for the surface before you get further than knee deep. You get used to diving into the icy water as quickly as possible, otherwise you look like a scaredy-cat and nobody wants that.

Walk back from the beach, take an outdoor shower, dress and turn on the barbeque. Bacon, eggs, toast, whatever takes your fancy.

Eat.

Sit around relaxing, preferably with a cold beer in hand.

In a few hours, turn the barbeque back on. Homemade burgers, sausages, some amazing grilled veggies, again the ingredients can be flexible.

Drink cold beer and cheap wine late into the night, perhaps walk back to the beach for a bonfire.

Sleep.

Repeat.

Phew, I think I need to lie down.

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On Thursday morning I became one of the 1.5 million people to ring in 2010 in Sydney, Australia. One of the first places in the world to enter the new decade. Pretty cool.

At about 11 in the morning, I headed out with a backpack full of good food and cheap wine to meet up with everyone at Thornton Park in Balmain East. It was the perfect spot – not too big, and apparently not too well known, so our group had plenty of room to spread out our blankets, pump up the iPod speakers and get comfortable for our last day of 2009 with a perfect view of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.

If you read my Christmas post, you know that the weather here hasn’t been exactly cooperative lately. Christmas day was cold and rainy, then the 27th – 30th were gorgeous, sunny and perfect. Dcember 31st, New Years Eve…..overcast with showers. Of course. Just to put the icing on my weather nightmare cake – I STILL managed to get sunburnt and am now sporting some pretty fabulous burn lines.

I can’t even tell you what we did to pass the time all day except eat, drink and take a few naps. The high point of the entertainment was a few of the boys choosing to strip down to their boxers and jump off the ferry port into the harbour water below. Unfortunately they chose a time when a large ferry was on its way. I’ve never seen a ferry reverse so quickly as this one did, but I’m happy it did and there were no casualties. Good job boys.

Nine o’clock rolled around and round one of fireworks exploded over the bridge. Apparently there was some controversy about the timing of the fireworks for fear of them overshadowing the Auckland fireworks, but they certainly saved the big show for midnight. It was really incredible, although it’s hard to describe fireworks in words and make them sound like more than just a few flashes of colour, but the show I saw was definitely more than that. I’m afraid I’ve had trouble uploading photos, but they are all to come soon, so I’ll keep you updated!

The next day, thanks to my promotions job, I had a free VIP pass to the Space Ibiza party in Sydney to dance and party with the likes of Sam Sparro and Pete Tong. Not bad. Good new year indeed.

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Christmas Day on Bondi Beach. I’m thinking of a blazing summer sun, white sand, Father Christmas surfing the waves, and plenty of food and drink. Or not…

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it can’t be cold, grey and rainy. Apparently.

Christmas Eve we were full of big plans. Collecting our money together for a Christmas feast, packing towels and sun block into our bags and donning our swim suits under our clothes. We celebrated the night before Christmas with a little party and a late night swim in the apartment building’s basement pool, which turned into me racing Christian in Butterfly across the pool (I still have perfect form even if I’m not the fastest thank you very much!) before a sing along of all the cheesiest songs we could think of. After all, what’s Christmas without a sing-song!

Then it arrived! Christmas morning! I woke up to the beautiful….grey, cold, wet and windy Sydney?! Okay, not exactly what I expected. But it’s not every day you’re in Australia for Christmas, so we weren’t going to let a little weather deter us. After all, it was pretty much like every day of my life in the UK. We’re used to this kind of stuff.

I headed to Bondi Beach which was noticeably less packed than predicted thanks to that chilly wind. We gathered under one of the few wooden pavilions and huddled together to enjoy our Christmas feast. At least the weather couldn’t stop us eating good food. Roast chicken, smoked salmon, pasta salads and plenty of wine. Yummm…  I felt like a real flashpacker at that point, even if I was freezing with my towel wrapped around me for warmth.

A few people decided to grab tickets for Sunburnt Christmas – the ‘official’ Bondi Christmas party. I did without, although the shelter of the pavilion did look appealing…  Apparently our food was a lot better than theirs anyway, so I feel pretty good about my decision.

So in general – Christmas was fun, although not exactly what I pictured. This is my second Christmas away from home. Last year I was in Thailand, this year Australia. Next year… who knows! Perhaps I’ll make it back to the family, although there’s no telling what continent they’ll be on come next year either, so you’ll just have to keep reading!

Now it’s that strange time in between Christmas and New Years when not much makes sense. I posted this last year, but it’s still my favourite skit about this strange week from Michael McIntyre. And finally, thanks to everyone who sent Christmas cards from around the world to me here in Sydney. It means a lot to know you guys are still thinking of me, and please know I’m thinking of you too! I promise, postcards are slowly but surely on their way. There’s a very long list of you, so patience please!

I have high hopes for my Sydney New Years Eve and New Years Day, so watch this space for the story of what should be an epic welcome to the new decade!

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Apologies for any problems viewing this page. For unknown reasons, formatting has been rather stubborn shall we say…

Last Wednesday, I planned to meet up with four friends: two of my London pals and two girls who came into my life during my travels in Asia: Laura, was only involved for a single night on Koh Pha Ngan, but is one of the few who I’ve managed to stay in touch with, the other is Claudia, who, if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog will be a familiar name to you. But I couldn’t resist when what could have been a small, quiet night began rolling downhill and picking up more and more people as it went. It started with Sophie (one of the London pals) messaging our ‘usual’ Wednesday night drinks group on Facebook:

Sophie 12 October at 18:17 Reply

Hello this wednesday we are headed to cha cha moon just off carnaby street for some gorgeous food! We will meet outside at 6.30pm, then head to the john snow pub for 7.30pm!

Lots of love xx

Then I confirmed plans with my two traveling friends, Laura and Claudia; which grew to be Laura, Claudia, Claire, and eventually Emily.

Marianne McPhee 13 October at 09:37
You girls still up for tomorrow? Does Cha Cha Moon (just off Carnaby Street) at 6:30 work? Hope so! See you soon!
Claudia 13 October at 10:36 Reply
yup, def still up for it and sure that is cool beans for me! see you then! xxx
Laura 13 October at 13:38 Reply
Change of location and cuisine… gosh we’re CRAZY. I’ll be there as soon as I can….
Claire is coming as well… I think. I’m SO HUNGRY xxx
Then my friend Chris, who I only know through STA Travel Buzz, announced his presence in London that night on Twitter:
Curiouscheese: on the train to London now… @alice_walkabout @fillingthepages @statravelbuzz drinks later tonight?! X
Since Cha Cha Moon was clearly becoming the place to be, I passed along the news:
FillingThePages: @curiouscheese @statravelbuzz @alice_walkabout What time? Meeting people 4 dinner @ Cha Cha Moon – lots of traveling peeps, can meet there?
Lucky for me, Alice picked it up:
alice_walkabout: @FillingThePages i may well do that, thanks for the invite @statravelbuzz @curiouscheese you up for it? x
Finally, less than two hours before meeting time, my mobile phone began vibrating with a message from Miguel (that suave Portuguese neighbour I’ve mentioned before):
Miguel: I’m meeting Jess at 7 for dinner on Goodge Street, want to join?
Me: I’m meeting friends at Cha Cha Moon around 6:30, come there instead?
Miguel: Ok…I am meeting jess in oxford circus tube station at 7pm and we will meet u there..k?
So I extended the message to Miguel’s housemates:
Me: Meeting at Cha Cha Moon at 6:30pm
Tom: See you there!
So a dinner with four lovely ladies, turned into a meet up of 13 people from all different walks of life. And not once was a word spoken between myself and any of them. All I needed was Facebook, Twitter and a mobile phone.
Not one person at the table knew everybody else there and the evening was spent enjoying great (and cheap!) food at Cha Cha Moon and a few pints at the John Snow Pub. It was a simple night, but sometimes the simplest of things can make for the best memories. Now three of us are headed to Australia, two are off to Thailand, one is aiming for Canada, another for the USA. A rare night that I thought deserved it’s own entry.

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