Sunday, April 29, 2007

Billy Clinton at Phoenicia

Rana gave me the news today that last night Bill Clinton ate at her Uncle's restaurant Phoenicia in Bloomfield, Michigan. Some history: Phoenicia was an ancient civilization centered in the north of ancient Canaan, with its heartland along the coastal plains of Great Syria what is now Lebanon and Syria and northern Israel.

I loved the food there when I visited a few years ago...their home made pineapple spirit (can't remember if it was vodka or rum) was also such a treat. The Eid's are Lebanese and Samir's wife is sister's with the amazing Ramsa so am sure there is something in their blood that makes them good hosts and cooks. Apparently Bill was really nice and posed for photos with all the staff too.

If you visit Phoenicia, just remember that sweet bread on the menu is not a selection of sweet breads but the pancreas (belly/stomach/heart sweetbread) or thymus gland (neck/throat/gullet sweetbread) of an animal younger than one year old. These animals are usually lambs or calves....I learned that the hard way!

Will post pics later of Bill and the Eid's. Am sure Sammy, his dad (see pic) and the staff gave him a proper Lebanese welcome. Bill prob winked ciao to them at the door....

Phoenicia Restaurant
588 S. Old Woodward Birmingham, MI 48009

Friday, April 27, 2007

Eat London

I love this idea!

Bunny is going to this event tomorrow in Trafalgar Square and will take some before and after pics, should be great!

This project is an early part of Lift (London International Festival of Theatre). Ali&Cia – artist Alicia Rios working with architect Barbara Ortiz –started by scaling down a map of Central London to 60 square metres. This was then split into 15 sections, which different community groups are to build up out of food.
The resulting, entirely edible, artwork is to be laid out on tables in the square, and 'oohs' and 'aahs' will turn into 'mmms' when spectators are invited to eat the results. The project originally started in Melbourne, which turned out marshmallow monuments, jelly towers and sushi buildings. Pic from the Melbourne event.
Maybe this will make its way to TO?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Deep & Delicious
Mmmm...Mc Cain Deep & Delicious cake is the frozen cake that we grew up on. Back in TO and at a corner shop near AK's condo I re-acquainted myself with at all the foods that I missed while being in the UK.

Hickory Sticks, Mr. Christie Cookies, Bick's Pickles(the best pickles in Canada) and the Mc Cain cake selection. The cake is white and fluffy and has the best icing. I didn't read the ingredients because I would not like them am sure but it is delicious.

Bought the 'white flavour' cake and enjoyed it with some random food items like pickles, samosas, pita and salsa and beef and vegetable patties (like I used to have in high school). It was all washed down with a cup of green tea with mint. Weird but yummy!

Don't ask me why we had this weird combo but the corner shop near his place made a pretty penny off us as they sell everything at double the price. I even persuaded AK to not get some plastic pot noodle soup as we had enough random food stuff..

The Esplanade entertainment of the day was watching the store owner drill steel bars to the shop's door in her high heels and using an electric power drill...


Monday, April 23, 2007

Bored housewives make great businessesSo back on my Dell to post this...need to go for a course on Mac for dummies...
On Sunday, Paolo my wonderfully creative friend and Rob who is also swimmingly lovely and I went to Raoul's Deli in Little Venice, just a short stroll from the Vale. We tried to go to The Waterway for a coffee but it was jam packed so decided to stroll along a little more and ended up at Raoul's.

Raoul's is an example of a great deli with a few seats outside to enjoy your coffee or any treats you picked up inside. I used to see Ben there many mornings sipping his coffee when he was erm... 'working from home.'

Luckily we were able to find a table outside to people watch and enjoy our coffees, brownies (which were choco-liscious) and some of the great juices they stock e.g. Guarana juice and other organic apple juices.

There is a cafe/restaurant across the road and both establishments along with their location in Notting Hill are very welcoming and designed so well that they are a pleasure to be in. The restaurant for Sunday brunch has a long queue outside the door so you know they must be doing something right when there are two other breakfast places nearby where you can get a table.

At the deli the fresh cheeses, breads and produce displayed in the open and in wicker baskets is welcoming and warm, it is like entering a little shop in France or Italy although much more modern. It is a place for looking at all the various types of cheeses, pastes, olives, candies, sweets, breads, sauces, pastas and other delicacies you wouldn't find in your bog standard supermarket. They also have a nice cold buffet selection for those days when you can't be asked to cook after a day at work. It is a little pricey but as are all food shops in London not serving you stale bread and bagels that would break your newly whitened teeth.

Geraldine, the owner was kind enough to let me take photographs so enjoy! From their website, 'Located in the heart of Maida Vale in Little Venice, Raoul's was established in December 1985 through the drive and determination of a self-proclaimed "bored housewife" Geraldine Leventis. Geraldine was used to entertaining large numbers of guests over the years, one of whom was the painter Francis Bacon, and it was he who pressed her into opening her own restaurant.

She also looked fab working in the shop that day.

Rob is a fan of deli/cafes and is also a bored city worker so perhaps this will be his next venture. Look out for his work in collaboration with Il Paolo and perhaps there will be a Roberto's opening sometime soon in the Richmond-y neighbourhoods. An Italian-Brit combo which would be a welcome addition to some neighbourhoods who's only pastry/bread is from that awful Greggs chain.

Another post will be 'why are there not more good Italian bakeries in London?'

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Guinness in Namibia?
Met a friend of Craig's last night who is working in northern Namibia doing research. Something I remember him telling me was that, 'It's bloody hard to get a good pint of Guinness up there.'

He is in town for a month so am sure he will be consuming his fair share before he has to drink Windhoek Beer again.

Also check out Craig's website he's got some great photos of the Amazon and of Namibia and he is the photographer for the cookbook. We are planning to do photos in Sicily in September if all goes to plan...
(pic taken in Derry, Ireland)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Down Town China Town

After collecting left luggage from the HT party venue from Saturday, I spotted this alley in Chinatown, it was really smelly but I was curious to take a path off the main road so D and I turned in. As I am very curious by nature I saw Chinese ladies and a few Chinese tourists with cameras going into this tiny doorway.

When I went in the crowded doorway it was indeed a little factory - maybe the size of my lounge and in there were three noodle making machines and 3-4 men making the noodles, bagging them, packing them into boxes and also selling to the little crowd of customers in front of me at lightning speed!

No one spoke English so when I pointed at my camera and asked if I could take pics - one of the men immediately waved both arms saying no! Looking at the mini factory and steam and the whole set up am sure they thought I was from the authorities. I tried to explain to one girl that I 'write about food' in half sign language. She then yelled at the men again perhaps to explain what I said, took her bag of noodles and left. Nothing rally happened after that - so I took a few pics anyway as by this point the men were back to noodle making and I felt a bit odd.

I did want to buy some goods but not sure what it was really other than octopus-like white noodles with some green colouring in them and other items that were unrecognizable to me. I then googled the name of the factory and found that another blogger had been there too.

Celine from black.salt said she found some char siew bao - bbq pork buns that she could not find elsewhere in London and that they were selling glassy white rice noodles.
She paid £2 for the 6 pork buns and £1 for the packet of rice noodles, not bad for fresh noodles straight out of down town china town! (what movie is this line from Rexi?)

Next time I will buy some and get Mrs. Lau to help me whip up a meal as I heard she is the best cook to have left Hong Kong.

Check it...
Lo's Noodle Factory
6 Dansey Place
closest tube: Leicester Square
Arm Muscle?

I spent the day with Daniel, a talented, young and handsome pastry chef from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's chic restaurant Foliage. We walked around Chinatown, visited a hidden, sweat-shop-y noodle factory in one of the back alleys and had lunch in a fab new deli. Will post on the noodle factory and the deli later.

After some talk of the splendid deserts that Daniel creates and how some women clients have come back to the kitchen gushing that his chocolat fondant gave them an orgasm I felt a bit inspired. So I decided to make a cake, out of the box! Not the same but still chocolate right? So I said to Daniel, 'I have been meaning to make this cake for ages but did not have a blender.' He looked at me strangely and said, 'Well why not use a spoon or a whisk?' Duh... so this cake mix has been sitting in my cupboard for ages now and it never dawned on me to make it the way my gran always made her cakes with some good old muscle...sometimes we forget what we did before modern gadgetry?!

So off I set, it all was going well, eggs & milk into the bowl, it all smelled chocolate-y, then I needed to add vegetable oil. I picked it out of the cupboard, poured the allocated amount and poured it in - my cake mix then bubbled, started to smell and there were white bits floating around my once lovely brown cake mix. The smell was putrid - I think the oil had gone off and had ruined my cake.

There went the chance of my Daniel and friends tasting my cake and having pure pleasure. So I dumped it down the sink and Rexi turned up with a reduced price Lindt Easter bunny and we ate that instead, ears first of course. Sorry D - will have to make another cake - thx for the cake tins though.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hot Kiwi?
Typical Kiwi country!
With a lot of talk about the upcoming Anzac day festivities...which unless you have Kiwi (people from New Zealand) or Aussie friends you would not know about, we visited a pub which took us straight back to the wilds of New Zealand.

Everyone in there was a Kiwi, except me, everyone in there was wearing some sort of Kiwi rugby shirt or a t-shirt that referred to them being a Kiwi, or they were wearing a shark's tooth around their neck - which a large % of Kiwi's wear.

Australia and New Zealand commemorate the ANZAC Day holiday on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)who landed at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War 1.
So does this mean they worked together? It seems that Aussies and Kiwis have the same love/hate relationship as Canadians and Americans.

Anyhow, two drinks were served en masse at the Redback after a free bbq for patrons - snakebites and Speights beer. Speights was founded in 1876 in Dunedin, NZ and has been going strong ever since and is called the 'Pride of the South' (South Island of NZ, for those of you who don't know that it is made up of two islands)

And snakebites are - half lager, half cider and a shot of blackcurrant cordial. It looks purply and tastes sweet. Needless to say patrons at the Redback were happy, dancing and singing and well fed from the bbq...but it was a Sunday night so am sure there were some sore heads on Monday!

I felt like I was transported to NZ for a little while...
Thx Kiwi hosts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Circa 1991?<

Pics from the early 90s of a family visit to Sicily. Had pizza last night but it wasn't the same as home made pizza cooked in a wood burning stove in the countryside.

So thought I would dig up some old pics and show a little bit of Sicily...
In the pic, Franca's fresh pizza made with such few, fresh ingredients - tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and perhaps mushrooms, home made olives or some home made salami. That is all you really need!

Westerners have add all kinds of toppings to pizza it is just hideous, my rule is no more than 3 toppings. One of the best pizzas I had in Italy was the marinara which had tomato sauce, basil, garlic and oregano..divine. Simple Sicilian cooking at its best!

My sis and I with our cousins way back when in 'campagna' their country house where the wood burning stove and orchards are... Oh how little we were...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Summer Sun
It was a fantastically sunny weekend in London and spent most of it outside. The amount of people walking outside has tripled and my street is filled with prams, people, bikes, dogs and everyone that was hibernating. What started off as a bad weekend turned into a fantastic one...

Drink of choice for the weekend was the Caipirinha. Had one at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill which is a must see, its interior is spectacular with caves, rope bridge and beautiful mosaics and mirrors. Very trendy and cool with high drink prices to match. Rahul met the owner who is an eclectic Londoner who's sense of style epitomizes the bar/restaurant. Go there for a drink and find some nice men to buy you more...

The C is a Brazilian drink made from Cachaça alcohol (fermented sugarcane), sugar and lime and is the national drink of Brazil.
The average Brazilian drinks about three gallons of Cachaça annually. It is so sweet so if you don't like sugary cocktails than steer clear.
p.s. am still getting to know how to use my new Mac so will post more pics once I figure out how to find them on my computer!


Beks and Rahul at BBB

Thursday, April 12, 2007

June Deadline
I have digressed from working on the cookbook and think I may owe someone 100quid/dollars in June if it is not done (we didn't discuss currency did we Daryl?)

...I have also not written about Sicilian food lately but here is a pic of two coffees lovingly made in Sicily last month - does this count?
Love the cinnamon heart of the cups has a mix of English and Italian writing and says 'Cafe Time'

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fly Niki
I thought we were going to Japan when I saw this plane in the parking spot at the airport. It would've been a nice surprise but instead it was our flight to N.Ireland.

We booked with Air Berlin but got on the Fly Niki plane instead. I recommend booking with them if you can..why?

Brand new planes, hosts in cool uniforms, modern music on board (not that annoying muzak!) free drinks, snacks and pudding for a one hour flight and for longer flights a menu that looks like it came from a cool restaurant.

But most importantly pilots that know how to land a plane (unlike Easy J and Ryan A who always deliver a rough landing)I even like their sick bags ;) and slogan 'Double Satisfaction'
Say no more...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Merchant's House

The Merchant's House B&B is stunning.

After ringing around to almost every B&B in Portrush there was only one place available in a town nearby....we stayed in a super old school B n B called Chez Nous which was over priced and all items in the house were circa 1960s including threadbare sheets, beds with the springs popping out of them, old towels, several types of patterned wall paper and various pieces of patterned carpet mixed together, the oldest tea cups and cutlery and a mish mash of knicknacks and stuff everywhere - which was a bit of a pattern/grandmother's house type nightmare, it was clean and the owner was friendly which was its redeeming point but I think the house desperately needs a bit of updating.

So for the next night we decided to book accommodation early to ensure we got one of our top 3 choices and luckily there was one room left at the Merchant's House -top 3 rated in the Lonely Planet guide. Entering the Merchant's house was like stepping into a home out of a movie, it has an aura to it and is decorated so well and maintained that you felt instantly at home. The Merchant's House is award winning restored Georgian town house located just outside the old city walls of Derry. There are large rooms, high ceilings, fab plaster work and beautiful antique furniture, paintings and lovely accents all around.

The family that owns it was so lovely and caring - you could just feel the love in the house, there were family photos, Easter cards from previous guests/friends, letters of thanks for American govt officials who stayed there and books, games and large comfortable couches for you to lounge back in if you didn't want to stay in your gorgeous room. The two staff there were such nice ladies with such gentle, kind mannerisms and the owner was absolutely lovely and genuinely interested in her guests. I could've stayed there forever...the breakfast was also v.nice - home made jams and marmalade on traditional Irish soda bread.

The dining room was set immaculately and all items in the house were just perfect. When I asked if the owner decorated the house herself, she answered, 'I did but the house has its own style and dictates what it needs..' She could probably be the Irish Martha Stewart without the jailbird history.

There was even a document in the entrance that dated back to the 1600s (I think) and it stated that the rent for the home back them was ₤14.00 for the whole year. My camera's battery died so only have a few dark pics...will post more when I get some and their website doesn't do it any justice. My only recommendation is get there to see it for yourself.

"This elegant Georgian house has been revived with such care that it won a Civic Trusts Ireland conservation award". Frommer's 2004.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mary had a little...

Lamb, lamb everywhere...the lush, green countryside of Northern Ireland was filled with lots of baby lamb. It is lambing season. They are adorable and so fluffy and white you just want to squeeze them! As a big city girl, I had to ask the lovely driver to pull over a few times for pics; the driver was a farm child so was laughing at my oohiing and ahhing at all the animals.

Easter in Northern Ireland was a treat, lots of green space, lots of gorgeous countryside framed by moutains, beautiful beaches and coastline (we followed the Coastal Route from Belfast to Londonderry)and lots of interesting people. Basically I could not understand half of what people were saying and they also could not understand me too?! So quite entertaining.

Good Friday in Ballycastle saw us waiting an hour at a local fish and chip shop by the sea for the fresh cod. Saturday we had dinner in Portrush at Kelly's nightclub - which was, for the Canadian readers, more like Ponderosa in the 70s with a dance floor (we didn't go to the Lush side where Pete Tong was playing today so can't comment on that side). When we stepped into the restaurant it felt like we stepped into a scene out of Eastenders. The bar was strangely decorated with stuffed moose, deer, tigers and other safari animals staring down at patrons - all very eclectic for Portrush, it was going for a glamouros, Harrods-y, colonial, safari, wilderness feel with a bit of nautical, which all doesn't really mix too well, non?

Also we were quite exotic there as we didn't have fake tans or look like a WAG wearing too much jewelery and have many tatoos. I wish I had the camera that night as some of the people in there could be made into new characters for Little Britain.

Sunday we ate the traditional Sunday roast at the only pub that was open in Derry which unfortunately wasn't a traditional Irish pub but a Wetherspoons (eek!) Needless to say, am glad to be back in London, eating my tuna and chickpea salad and muesli breakfast!

As they say in Ireland, good craic!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Buona Pasqua
Someone in the office today said as they were running out, 'have a nice weekend celebrating Jesus' birth.' Hmmm....

Well at least we had some Easter chocky which was good, it was a Smarties egg with Smarties inside. The true meaning of Easter is not eggs, nor bunnies, nor lots of chocolate - it is a deeply Christian festival which has lost its meaning along with Christmas. They are both high street sales extravaganzas.

These pics were taken at a little Italian shop I love in Soho called Camisa and Son. These uovo di Pasqua (Easter eggs) and we used to get these after church as children. They were usually bitter chocolate with a really cheesy little toy at the bottom -usually a plastic ring, but we loved them and our Nonna bought us each one.

The lovely colorful foil paper was usually saved for scrapbooks or wrapping other gifts and the chocolate, since it wasn't really Cadbury-like, was also saved and used in baking later on. Italian bakeries like my Aunt & Auncle's, used to hang these eggs in rows from the ceiling which made it feel so colorful and festive. Special breads and sweets were baked for the breaking of the lenten fast and it was all based around family and church.

Happy Easter everyone, Buona Pasqua.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sweety Kriekbier
Kriekbier and Fruli are fresh, fruity, strawberry and raspberry beers – perfect for the approaching summer; although today is freezing. It comes out of the tap/bottle pink which is pleasant and is sweet but not overly sweet.

Again another girly drink – an alternative to the much loved shandy. It is not served in many places so look out for it, it is hard to find information about it online. I am partial to Fruli but tried Kriekbier this weekend and was just as nice. Fruli and Kriekbier are Belgian and when I find more about them I will post again. All I know is that you can get it in a few select places, it tastes great and is nice to hold in the land of yellow and brown beers.

The Volunteer pub at the edge of Regent’s Park serves it and in the midst of all the teams who come to drink pre and post game you can see many females and a few males enjoying the drink. The one in the pic was wrapped so sweetly in such nice paper and was served at the Ground Floor pub on Portobello Road.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What do you want to drink?<

It seems to be the dreaded question for me when someone is ordering at the bar. Am not really a fan of beer and don't always feel like a shandy as they can be very bloat inducing, don't like white wine, nor cheap red wine as it tastes awful and at bars good red wine is rare or expensive. So that leaves mixed drinks some of which can be boring, rum and coke, vodka/gin tonic and my memory passes me when I want to order something different...sometimes it is easier to just order a Coke. This past weekend, this time of indecision led me to miss the opportunity to pick something and instead let the drink buyer pick something. I like this as it takes the pressure off and I usually enjoy something new.

All were happy with the choice - Prosecco. I haven't had it in ages and really like it.

Prosecco is a variety of white grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy, and also gives its name to the sparkling wine made from the grape like true Champagne.

The grape is grown in the wine-growing regions north of Venice. Its late ripening has led to its use in dry sparkling wines. Apparently Bellinis, made properly should be made with Prosecco. The name "Prosecco" is now protected under European law and can be used only for the wine made from the Prosecco grape in the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene region.

It was just lovely - refreshing, sparkling and nice and light. A few of us enjoyed the Prosecco at one of our locals, The Metropolitan. The pic is of Ben and his red trousers (which were the hit of the party) and sunglasses which are not 3D-they are part of the t-shirt! He is a man of fine taste and always knows how to have a good time! Thx Ben for ordering, I could've been a while...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


See I found Andrea first and now Toronto Life are giving him the credit he deserves, they love his zeppole...his food is divine, get to B-Espresso Bar!

Read Chris Nuttall-Smith's review.