Cider Revolution

I get really mad at the farmers market in winter. I know I’m not supposed to. That’s the whole point of farmers markets — you get whatever is good and in season. But in New York in January, every week seems to bring the same thing: potatoes, apples, sweet potatoes, apple cider. The thrill of stumbling upon zucchini blossoms, ramps or some other new discovery is gone.

So I’m always impressed by a winter market that can pack a surprise. Wandering around London’s Borough Market on a cold day in early January, I saw loads of booths offering hot apple cider and mulled wine (god I love that drinking outdoors and drinking in the AM are both acceptable in Europe). Then I saw one booth offering something different: mulled pear cider.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen any cider other than apple. Why is this? The pear cider was rich, warming, and just a little bit thick, like a sweet, steamy soup — the perfect thing to warm your bones on a chilly winter morning. Personally, I think it could have done with a splash of bourbon, but that’s another story.

This is just to say…why do apples get to hog all the cider glory? I’d love to see more pear cider at the markets here. Peach cider? Plum cider? Zucchini blossom cider? Bring it on.

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An American in London

If you’ll continue to indulge me here on my whirlwind world tour, ESers, I’m currently on my way back home from Africa and decided to stop over in London for a few days (it’s on the way, right? Well, kind of.) Anyway, it’s a hot thing in the food world right now to talk about how British food isn’t as horrible as it used to be; how Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and the gastropub explosion have finally made England safe for foodies. Of course, personally I was less interested in hearing about what celeb chef does the best high-end pigeon plate, and more into figuring about whether or not this newly foodified country knows how to make a proper sandwich.

First stop: Borough Market, the weekly food fest just south of Tower Bridge, where I spied some lovely slices of halloumi doused in garlic and lemon cooking up on the grill. I’ve mentioned the glories of grilled halloumi on the blog before, but let’s pause for a rant:  why is this delicious cheese so sparsely available in the US? Yes, you can find it in high-end stores sometimes, but it usually costs $9 and I almost never see it in restaurants. In Europe, and oddly, also in Africa, you see halloumi all the time on salad and sandwich menus, and it’s not particularly pricey. I know it’s not a U.S. cheese, but really, we have all kinds of Euro cheeses in the states, why are we so low on this one? I’m just saying, it really spruces up a salad or sandwich, and we need to get on that train. </rant>

Moving on — clearly, I wanted the halloumi as soon as I saw it. But then I had a twinge of travel eating doubt. You see, when traveling I always get hyper worried about making the wrong food decisions. I figure I only have a set amount of meals in each location, just get super nervous about blowing one by ordering something less than fantastic. Was halloumi really the right choice on my first day in London, especially when it’s not even a British food? I began to question my decision. The same stand also sold bacon butties, and the pork-y smell filling the air was raising serious doubt. Meat or cheese??? My food-travel anxiety kicked into high gear.

Then of course, I remembered I’m American and that I don’t have to choose.

“Could you make me a sandwich with bacon and grilled halloumi on it?” I tentatively asked the sandwich cook, wondering if he would scoff at my foreign fattiness.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “Would you like the bread toasted?

“Yes, please.”

“Actually, would you just like the bread grilled in bacon fat?”

Oh, man. Now that is my kind of British chef.

More Bacon: Recipes, raves and other bacon bits in Endless Bacon.

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Who Will Cater the Royal Wedding?

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The honeymoon period is over but the excitement isn’t waning over the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. While most of the world focuses on what Kate will be wearing, we here at ES only care about the food. The Queen plans to host a reception for the newlyweds at Buckingham Palace, while Prince Charles will have one of his own. But which of Britain’s respected chefs will cook those royal meals? Here are our entirely unsolicited opinions.

1. Heston Blumenthal OBE

Heston Blumenthal

As owner and chef of three-time Michelin Star restaurant The Fat Duck, it’s no doubt that Blumenthal is a hot contender. His new restaurant opening at London’s Mandarin Hotel this year will even have its own private Royal entrance for such occasions. Sounds like someone’s auditioning for the gig!
Odds – 3:1

2. Angela Hartnett MBE

angela harnett

Possibly the most talented and respected female chef in England, Hartnett was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to the hospitality industry, so she is no stranger to Royal etiquette. But it was being the first female to win the prestigious Catey in 2009 that she’s probably most proud of — will she become the first female to cater a Royal Wedding?
Odds – 5:1

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Gridiron Grub: Fish Tacos and Chips

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To be honest, I don’t have much of a creative process. In fact it is more like a train of thought that often goes completely off the rails. To give you an idea, let me illustrate how I came up with what I wanted to try for this week’s Gridiron Grub post:

Hmmm, I have to write another Gridiron Grub post————Crap, what am I going to write about————Can I do something about the  NFL game that was in London between San Francisco and Denver?————Man do they both stink! I can see why UK would rather watch soccer————Do I know  anything about British Food?————Yorkshire pudding, fish & chips, Spotted Dick————Ha! Spotted Dick————Am I 12 yrs old?————Man, this is tough,  I want  a taco————(15 minutes later)————Fish Tacos and Chips!!

So here you go, for your next football gathering, whether in the US or across the pond, try Fish: Halibut tacos with Pickled Cabbage-Jalapeno Slaw and Crema and Chips: Salted Lime Jicama chips.

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