Reviewing Gordon Ramsey's Foxtrot Oscar, London

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Foxtrot Oscar
79 Royal Hospital Road
London SW3 4HN, United Kingdom
020 7352 4448

I know I shouldn't daydream too much but I was half-expecting Gordon Ramsey to come out of the kitchen and yell a couple of choice expletives. The food was simple, rustic and fresh, adjectives Mr. Ramsey uses a lot on air. Unfortunately, while he owns the restaurant, he did not cook the food. By the graces of my bff Carrie (and her sister Peggy), we were taken out for lunch by Peggy's boss, who does some fine lighting installations around the world. We later got a tour of his lovely London townhouse, which made me wonder if I should have been an architect instead of a struggling scientist.

My navarin of lamb was delicious; the meat was tender and well-flavored and the potatoes soaked up all the red wine gravy... The remainder, while delicious, was forgettable and I thought that the portions were too tiny actually. I might have had overly high hopes but the food was not as interesting as I thought it would be. 

Crab cakes with mayonnaise
Battered hake and mushy peas
Navarin of lamb
Confit duck leg with cassoulet
Fish Pie
Knickerbocker Glory-meh
Lemon meringue pie-meh
Chocolate tart-slightly bitter, smooth and totally decadent. Thumbs up!

Solo Food Travels-Vienna, Austria. Land of the Cafes

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A while ago, I stopped in Vienna to visit some friends who lived there. In between my time at the many museums (Belvedere had some amazing Klimts and Schieles) and opera (at the world-famous Vienna State Opera), I spent the remainder hunting down good eats. Vienna's cakes and cafe culture are hands down, its highlights. I wish I had a better experience with the dinners and appetizers.

Wiener Schnitzel at Figlmueller. Compare Size relative to my legs.
 But guess what, I finished it all! People at my table were so amazed considering that they were over 6 ft tall, twice my size had 1/2 of what I had. Well, I'll be honest here and admit that I ordered wrongly :P
Figlmueller, Vienna's most famous schnitzel. Took me an hour to get a spot for 1 person.

Pencil-thin but juicy and delicious. Could use with more lemons.
 Cafe Landtmann, frequented by Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler etc. My lunch there was ok.

 Demel's k.u.k., my favorite cafe by far. *Guess what, I just found out that they have A NYC BRANCH!!!!!!! But no sign of my favorite esterhazytorte.
Demels has such an old-world feel. Love it!
 Trying to navigate and plan my time wisely. I ordered 2 cakes and hot chocolate and more tea....
chocolate torte
 esterhazytorte-This delectable pastry and I were meant to be. Hazelnut!!!
 At the next cafe, Gerstner's, K.u.K. which I felt was so-so
More maccies.
 Empress Cici's (sp) and crystallized violets. I bought some. They were ok.
 Hotel Sacher.
 The renowned Sacher torte. (But it was dry and I thought that competitor, Demel's tasted way better, sorry.) Later, I heard from my friends that the whipped cream was typically eaten together because of the dryness, which made me wonder...Why make a dry cake in the first place?

Wine & Cheese 11 at Tory's

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Lineup (not quite. All the whites were chilling on the fridge). Smithsonian Orangutan for my friends who are studying apes.
Blueberry pie from Athan's.

Theme: Sheep's Milk Cheeses (all cheese from Formaggio's)

All of us got a chance to visit Tory at her new apartment and it was lovely :) There is something about red walls (or was it orange) that I absolutely love. This w&c was a little different because the sheep cheeses took center stage and wines were paired with respect to them. Darn! If only I had time to make a sheep's cheese, cheesecake. Wouldn't that be yummy? We had a blueberry pie from Athan's as a finisher and it was a great option because of the tart berries. I did not pick cheese #2 as my favorite (even though it has truffles) because I felt that the truffle's heady aroma overpowered the taste of the cheese. But I went for seconds all the same :P

As always, w&c always begets a wonderful time with friends as more plans and ideas are generated for future gatherings. I always get a giggle when our reader, Ritesh, puts on his *French/German/Italian/European* accent with respect to the wines and end up sounding the same, basically. But I will henceforth hold my peace lest he refuses me an additional splash of dessert wine :)  

Tory's Pairings after the jump with my favorites in highlight. Bread as always, from Clear Flour Bakery. 

My favorite High Tea at The Orangery, Kensington Palace, London

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Orangery
Kensington Palace
Palace Green

London W8 3UY
Area: Kensington Gardens
020 7376 0239
Restaurant website (unavail), for details, see Yelp UK

Food (4.2/5.0)
Service (3.8/5.0)

Not to be stereotypical, but my multiple food experiences in London haven't been mind-blowing; even if Indian food and Peking Duck in Bayswater are particular delicious (not English at all). Traditional English food doesn't quite excite me...Unless you're talking about High Tea. The most influential female figures in my early development subscribe to a "ladies who lunch" mantra, and would bring us kids out for high tea almost every week. Between nibbles of scones and sips of milky tea, we would be regaled with highlights of petty gossip, sagely advice and competitive shopping deals. We would switch things up by going for the traditional English one day, Hong Kong yum cha the next, Peranakan kuehs the next.... Not to sound obnoxious, I know my high tea well

In the UK, my favorite aspect of English food is unanimously its High Tea. While I can't say that I have sampled a lot in London, I have been to two places: The Orangery and Brown's. Of the 2, I preferred The Orangery to Brown's by several reasons:
TO was affordable and of great value (13-18 quid) versus and Brown's pricey tag (~40 quid!!!);
it had greater variety and also offered a savory smoked fish plate;
it was unpretentious and was located in the beautiful gardens of Kensington Palace...That said, Brown's offered free flow of delicious, buttery scones and petit fours but there really is so much carbs one can eat in the middle of the afternoon.

TO does not take reservations and if you're going there on the weekends, be prepared for a substantial wait. UK Yelpers, god bless their hearts, have rated my favorite TO highly and it is no longer London's best kept secret. As of now, I have officially been to TO about 5 times, which explains why I have not explored other high tea establishments as much. With pillars set in a high-ceilinged and sunlit room, I always leave with refreshed and inspired airs. Each table is also set with a small potted orange tree and the silverware is pristine and impeccable.

As mentioned, there is a delicately-smoked fish platter with trout, salmon and other nibbles which contrast nicely with the sweets we have. De-crusted poppyseed pain de mie contributes an excellent nutty profile toward the traditional buttered sandwich; in that regard, crunchy cucumber sandwiches and pillowy egg sandwiches were proportioned perfectly.  The scones with clotted cream, butter and strawberry preserves are heavenly and decadent and rich. The funny thing is that each rich mouthful invites another...because of the teas. I used to order champagne tea but to maximize my appetite, I now go without. I love lapsang souchong and earl grey the most; the former for its intense and seductive smokiness and the latter because of its citrus-y notes of bergamot. Gah, I love this place! I have been to some good, fancy high tea places in Boston but none so far have compared to the well-executed simplicity of TO. Waiting to buy a cheap air ticket to London soon...

The Menu (front)

The Menu (inside)
Little Orange plant
Said dining room
My very-embellished left hand. 
Preparing to attack.... Cousin Stef and aunt.


Unpretentious Fine Dining at Journeyman, Somerville.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I took this shot using my point and shoot; doesn't it look like it was taken by an SLR?
9 Sanborn Court
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 718-2333

Food (4.1/5.0)
Service (4.2/5.0)

I felt like a Journey-woman while making my way to the restaurant, tucked away from the T lines in east Somerville. It wasn't easy because MBTA buses aren't the most reliable means of transport in Boston. But like a climber working towards the peak, I was duly rewarded by an evening of unassuming but very fine dining. My 3 course tasting menu for $39 wasn't cheap, but their attention to detail and service makes it a worthwhile experience. Admittedly, this positive experience was enhanced by the company of dear friends and a delicious glass of efferverscent rosé.

I first heard of husband and wife team, Tze Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova (from B and Vaughn) via their underground supper club. Time passed and before I could get an invite, they went above ground and set up their restaurant. But true to their roots, Journeyman lies nestled in an alley, off the beaten track and in the heart of Union Square. Therefore, I was really excited when Jess organized a dinner outing to sample their food. In addition, it seems that my friends and friends of friends knew the owners so to say our enthusiasm was vested would be an understatement.

Our party of 10 was huge and we were asked to submit any dietary restrictions to the restaurant so that they could plan the menu. It was definitely a nice feeling to know that our dining experience was such a personal affair. Journeyman is mostly localvor-ic but Jess in her blurb said it best,
"The food comes daily from local farmers and artisans, often people the owners know. Not sure if this is sweet or macabre, but the owners have raised and named some of the animals (Lenin & Stalin were their first two pigs) and, on a less controversial note, grow edible herbs and flowers in the restaurant's windows. They also support other local purveyors such as Taza Chocolate, Pretty Things beer and other local/back alleys of production."

Most had the omnivore menu, but there were some of us opted for a vegetarian menu. I was impressed with their vegetarian options because it is no way lacking in terms of impact and quality as compared to the meat option. I thought the main course was going to be vareniki but it turned out to be sweet potato agnolotti. No matter, because the agnolotti was hearty and satisfying and the sauce that accompanied was excellent combination of sweet and savory. I got a bite from Daniella, and I wish I had more. My pasture-raised pork came from North Face Farms (the piggies look so happy!) and was just phenomenal--moist and slightly nutty; I think they forage for acorns and seeds for play. I cannot mention enough that carefree, ethically-raised animals taste significantly better than their caged counterparts. Like most fine dining, the portions are very tiny but over the course of 3 hours, everyone left sated and satisfied. Also noteworthy is that this was Jess' second visit in a month.

Amuse-bouche 1a. Buttery baby biscuit. I wish this could be lighter and softer and not so dense of crumb.
 Amuse-bouche 1b. Freshly made ravioli (vegetarian menu) with cubed beets.
First Course. Salad. Smears of carrot soup and eggplant soup frame a variety of squashes, striated beetroot, Watermelon radish (cute!), jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes. I loved this salad not because there was so much variety on a place but also because the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients speak for themselves. In fact, there was no dressing, just artfully-arranged slices of veg and a little moisture from the soups to tie it all together. Every mouthful was different and gave a unique explosion of flavor. This was also my first time having watermelon radish (center) and the first bite really did taste like the firm rind of a watermelon, lots of juicy crunch going on. 
 Said herb-garden.
Second course (vegetarian). Sweet potato agnolotti with seasonal greens and candied pecans, canneilini beans. Sweet and nutty and oh so yummy.
 Second course. Short ribs, pommes ecrase, frisee.
Second coursePork Loin, chard, potato cube. The caramelized sauce hardened on the plate so I really wasn't able to taste it. But the overall natural and refined flavors made it a pleasure to savor. Potato cube was nicely roasted.
 Close up of my pork. Mmmm.... meat-fat-meat = very YUM. Crispy crackling reminds me of Sio bak.
 Amuse-bouche 2. palate cleanser of apple and fennel jelly. I could have a whole pint of it, please.
Dessert. Rosemary pumpkin seed biscotti, apple cake, pear (?) ice cream. Apple cake was moist, tender and perfectly sweet. Biscotti was not as hard as a rock, which I prefer actually. I swore I tasted rosemary in the biscotti and people around me were incredulous and mentioned the creme anglaise and pumpkin seed instead (huh?). But my tasting abilities were validated upon double-checking the menu. Rosemary, it is! hah!
 Amuse-bouche 3. that I think resembles a baby chick.

A night of continuous eating starting wtih Sambal red snapper, then Nasi Lemak, Anchovy-Belachan, Hazelnut sparkling water, Chocolate ganache, Matcha Cream, Prelude to Taiyaki and More!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm going to keep the commentary short due to a picture-heavy post. But we were all craving for some sambal stingray/skate after reading K.F. Seetoh's recipe in the NYTimes and got together to make some at Jh's. In doing so, we decided on a nasi lemak combo with coconut rice, fried egg and anchovies. But this was at Jh's and he always has nibbles before, during and after cooking so a simple one-dish wonder kind of morphed into an eating expedition. Noms! We subsituted skate for red snapper and made other changes, as documented in Virtual Journal, so read more if you're interested. 

Sambal red snapper. Spicy, firm and it hits the spot. Could do with more acid, which we rectified using white vinegar.
Crispy fried eggs. This is no silky frittata or omelette for you but a rustic, fry with crispy, papery edges. 
Sorry for the messy plating. At this point I was just too hungry.With coconut rice and anchovies. 
Scratch that. we decided to fry them anchovies using homemade belachan
Palate cleanser. Club soda with frangelico (hazelnut) and disaronno (almonds). Interesting but winning combination of bubbly.
Not settling for a simple dessert, we decided whip up some chocolate ganache. Bain-marie gets steamy.
then its the heavy cream.
chocolate chips to melt.
I spiked it with matcha and nutella but the taste of chocolate was too overwhelming. 
As it cooled, the ganache thickened and we used it to sandwich Jh's (crispy) macaron. and as a topping for cheesecake. and to cover candied ginger. 

soft peaks of whipped heavy cream with matcha and orange blossom water. We couldn't taste the orange blossom but overall it was mildly sweet and very fragrant. It was all consumed in a heartbeat with macarons and rice crackers.
I was having way too much fun with the Taiyaki-griddle. But this paved the way for a Japanese food themed night!
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