Monday, June 27, 2011

Heat wave, house search, and running scared.

Photo from Flickr courtesy of lakewentworth

The UK is in the midst of a heatwave and London is hardest hit... we got to 30°C yesterday and will max out around 33°C today. That's about 90°F for you guys in the US and this is VERY HOT for English people. Men are wearing shorts in my office and there's already talk of a pre-lunch ice cream run. Personally I love it even though I'm feeling a bit sweaty; this is the way summer should be, and I'm reveling in the 48 hours of sultry breezes. 

Unfortunately, this week kicks off my marathon training, and the one thing I DON'T want to do is go running when it's hot out. Luckily today is a "rest day" according to my coach Hal, and it starts tomorrow morning with an easy 3 miler. Easy except for the fact that I haven't really run since the end of May. Oops. So not only is the looming marathon freaking me out (it's only 18 weeks away!), but the knowledge that I'm starting out my training with a lowered base level of fitness is also making me sort of wish I'd drunk less rosé in June and done more running. But I can't go back and change it now so I have to make the best of it, buckle down, and take my training seriously.

And in and amongst the heat and the running, I'm flat hunting. Not only flat hunting but neighborhood hunting. I will write up a post about Highgate, but since last weekend we're also considering Stoke Newington, Victoria Park Village, De Beauvoir Town (sort of), with some parts of south London still in the offing. It's only been 2 weeks of solid looking and I'm already fed up. There are so many decisions to make, compromises to consider, and the stress in this heat is really taking its toll. I realized yesterday that I've moved every year since moving to the UK, so I need to take this move seriously enough so that it's the right place for us until we buy a place. In other words, this needs to be pretty perfect. 

Somehow I feel like this is going to be a long, hot summer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pop Up Restaurant Revolution

First it was Underground restaurants, but that was so 2009; now Pop Up restaurants are sweeping London's epicurious landscape. This summer, it's all about Pop Up eating around the capital. Here's my personal hitlist of deliciousness:

Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar
Covent Garden's Dishoom has opened Bombay-inspired takeaway stands on the Southbank Beach. Perfect for a bite before you go see a show.

Rock Lobsta
Shoreditch boutique and collective Luna & Curious is hosting a pop up lobster roll/crab roll/seafood truck. A little bit of New England in, well, England.

The Bonnie & Wild
Just down the street from me, on Angel's Chapel Market, is a Scottish pop up restaurant called The Bonnie & Wild. Beyond haggis I'm not sure how Scottish food is really different from British food, but I'm gonna find out. It's only open Saturdays and no bookings.

Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan (who I haven't ever heard of, but apparently is a BIG DEAL) is opening an only-organic pop-up in Marylebone. YUM.

Limination by Ceviche
This is over, unfortunately, but last week Peruvian restaurant collective Ceviche hosted a pop-up restaurant on Farringdon Road serving Peruvian fusion foods. It was billed as a test run before a full restaurant opening in the not-so-distant future. The food was really tasty, and the cocktails amazing, but it overall lacked some consistency in service and preparation that I hope they'll iron out when they open for real. Looking forward to it!

Anyone else hear of some amazing gastro-pop-ups? If you're interested in pop-ups of all sorts (not just food), check out PopUpsLondon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spotted: anniversary blooms and basket

The Irishman and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary yesterday and I got spoiled. He sent me these lovely blooms to my office, and when I got home I received the best bike basket ever! We went to a local pub for Thai food and a few drinks since it was the longest day of the year, and we'll celebrate properly on Friday with dinner at Zucca. What a sweetheart... here's to you, stinky xxx

Friday, June 17, 2011

The defining dilemma of my life.

Image courtesy of Mshades on Flickr, who also has a photostream of a very cute Pug named Milo!

I know I've been quiet lately, but it's because I'm struggling with the defining dilemma of my life: city vs. country. But before I begin, I'd like to just point out how interesting it is that themes sort of roll through the interwebs; last week BetsyTransatlantically wrote about her country getaway and I have several other friends who have been emailing me about their city/country balance problems. Maybe it's because of the eclipses?

Anyways, last weekend The Irishman and I went to the Wiltshire countryside for our friends' baby's first birthday party. It was my first time as an adult at a child's birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite my blatantly absent desire for children. This little guy is pretty much the coolest baby around and it was great to celebrate his first year with him and his parents and all of our friends. But I did leave the party with a yearning – a yearning for more outdoor space, better access to nature, more room.

After spending the weekend looking out at rolling vistas from a patio full of flowers, The Irishman and I returned to our small, cramped flat and made a big decision. We are ready to move. Not out of town, but to a further ring of the onion that is London. We want at least two bedrooms and some outdoor space. I dream of a little studio space for making things, and I dream of sitting on a lounger in the sun surrounded by potted geraniums. The Irishman wants a full herb garden, even if it's in pots or hanging, and possibly some little tomato plants. Oh, and we also want to keep saving for a house. So realistically, we need to move farther out, probably to the furthest edges of Zone 2.

It's a big step for me. I've only ever lived in N1, and frankly, I love it. But my desire for more than a room with a bedroom attached and enough money to eat in restaurants and buy shoes is outweighing Angel's many charms and conveniences. I'm looking at this as an adventure, and planning a few Sunday excursions to new areas of town. We're concentrating on small village-y areas that feel like small towns within the larger metropolis. This Sunday is Highgate, and Crouch End, Dulwich, Stoke Newington and possibly Walthamstow aren't far behind. We have the luxury of one month's notice, and no deadline for finding a place, so we can be as picky as we want (which won't be hard).

Any readers out there live in a village in London that they love? Any tips? I'd love to hear your neighborhood suggestions!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Spotted: Shoreditch Street Art

Spotted: Roses that are not red

This is sort of a Spotted cheat, because these roses are in my house - I'm just featuring them because I bought them for 99p on sale at Waitrose on Tuesday and they've lasted brilliantly and are SO fragrant! Mmm, I hope they never die.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

British Food Festivals

Photo courtesy of Net Efket on Flickr

Sometimes I am a bit slow with Google Reader; weeks go by when I only manage to read my favorite blogs and I end up with stockpiles of food, design, and travel blog entries (you know, the ones with multiple posts per day that I yearn to be like) to catch up with.

Today is one of my catch up days when I am a bit light in the office (shh don't tell anyone) so I've zoomed through my cache of food blogs I follow. I was excited to find in my reader this article on The Guardian's Word of Mouth blog - an interactive map of food festivals in the UK this summer. How exciting!

The Irishman and I aren't slated to go to any at this point, but when he returns on Sunday we may have to have a think - spending some days in the sun enjoying the best of British produce sounds pretty much perfect! I'm considering The Whitstable Oyster Festival and the Great British Beer Festival

Mmmm delicious!

Back to Basque (Country)

The Irishman and I spent the final Bank Holiday of our long string of extended weekends with his family in the lovely Basque beach town of San Sebastian, in Spain. His family graciously invited me along for their family holiday, and who was I to decline four days of beach, sun, food and wine in such a gorgeous setting? 

We stayed in a sunny apartment overlooking the main beach, adjacent to the Old Town. The picture above is the view from the balcony (there were 4 balconies!) The main draw there is the pintxos, small dishes you order in every bar with wine. They are like tapas, but different; more like bite-sized tapas, usually on bread like bruschetta, and with amazing seafood. 

This doesn't look like much, but it was the fabulous beef-cheek we ate in our favorite pintxo bar. OMG delicious.

And of course, cortados. We washed down some fantastic pastries with many cortados over the weekend.

And the ham... I could wax lyrical about the jamon.

Aptly named, no?

The town itself, both old and new, is beautiful. Amazing architecture, old buildings with ornate details and new builds that showcase that amazing sense of Spanish design.

Because of where it is situated, in a cove nestled in the mountains at the very northwestern tip of the Iberian peninsula, the town is tucked behind a huge rock that was fortified for the city's defense over the last several centuries. Of course, now you can climb it. In 1950, the town erected a gigantic statue of Jesus on the top. You know, just because. So of course I had to go up and say hi to Jesus. Appropriately, I did so on Sunday.

Look at that view!

While we were there, San Sebastian was alive with concerts and events in the streets; it took us all weekend to work out that it was their bid for 2016 European Capital of Culture. From what I saw, they definitely deserve it!

On Monday, we left San Sebastian and drove north into France. I was returning to London in the afternoon, while The Irishman and his family were voyaging on into Bordeaux. On the way to Biarritz airport, we stopped into a charming seaside resort town called St Jean de Luz.

It's so interesting to me how two towns can be so close, and yet so different. San Sebastian and St Jean de Luz are both "Basque" but so definitively Spanish and French respectively. They share a lot - food culture, native textiles and patterns, and some architecture - but they both also have their own distinct cultures. Both are beautiful in their own ways, and I'd definitely return to each but possibly for different reasons. San Sebastian offers everything you'd want in a perfect package: beach, food, culture. It's easily accessible and The Irishman and I discussed how we could definitely do another long weekend there. St Jean de Luz, though, in the languid way of the French, is the type of town you might hole up in for a week, venturing out only to see if the neighboring towns have better sand on their beaches. It's quiet, old, and perfect for a relaxing week of doing nothing.