Taste of London 2015

Remember London back in June, when the sun shone gloriously on upturned, smiling faces? People spilled into the streets, joyously sharing a pint or two of Pimm’s, lovebirds skipped arm-in-arm through the park, and boats sailed gracefully up the Thames – every drop of sunlight absorbed and every ounce of Vitamin D enjoyed. The winds have changed, literally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back on the summer season with fondness. Especially with a flashback to my favourite food-filled event, Taste of London, which is now kicking of with its winter sister, creatively referred to as: Taste of London Winter. To help get you in the mood for the weekend long feast, let’s look back at the main event.  Taste of London 2015I grabbed my dining partner in crime, and made our way to Regent’s Park for an afternoon of gourmand delight. Taste of London 2015Taste of London 2015We first said hello to our burger buddies from across the pond, Shake Shack, guarded by smiling faces, including this posing beauty.
Taste of London 2015After snacking and sampling from an incredible selection of stalls, we stopped by Australian tea brand, T2 Tea
Taste of London 2015
They had a buzzing stall pumping out music and pouring out samples of an endless variety of loose leaf teas.Taste of London 2015We filled up on our favourites before hunting down more treats to try.
Taste of London 2015East London’s star in the sky, Duck & Waffle, were dishing up the classics. Taste of London 2015We decided Duck & Waffle’s Chef de Cuisine, Tom Cenci, looked like a giant chef taking over the Swiss Re building.Taste of London 2015An obligatory order of the duck and waffle never fails to satisfy.
Have you seen Daniel Doherty’s cookbook, yet? Perfect Christmas gift for the foodie in the family, and quite the bargain. Taste of London 2015We couldn’t resist some bacon wrapped dates with linguica and manchego. The perfect combination of sweet and savoury – these filling bites are like candy for adults.
Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015Before heading for Round 2, we chilled Mahiki-style in the sun whilst rocking to the beat. Taste of London 2015We soon spotted our other friends from across the pond, New York-style Chop Shop had some wonderfully meaty offerings.Taste of London 2015Creekstone Farms USDA hanger steak was served with a whipped Parmesan & Dijon mustard dressing. Taste of London 2015And smoked creamed corn with barbecued beef short ribs embodied comfort food on a plate.
Taste of London 2015 For those looking to top up with some bubbles, Laurent-Perrier‘s Champagne garden was overflowing with people watchers, and later offered a Champagne Masterclass. Taste of London 2015Lured by the scent of smoking BBQ, we squeezed past the growing queue of Roka‘s Robata grill where Korean spiced lamb cutlets sizzled away.
Taste of London 2015 L’Autre Pied offered elegant portions of scallop ceviche with cucumber, balsamic, crème fraîche and dill. Taste of London 2015And The Truscott Arms served up comforting plates of beautifully cooked beef cheek served with smoked mash and crispy shallots. Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015We made our way to José Pizarro where pieces of acorn fed Jamón Ibérico were being expertly sliced straight from the leg.  Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015The Palomar oozed cool, serving Israeli influenced specialities from the much favourited restaurant. Taste of London 2015I couldn’t resist one of my favourite dishes of Shakshukit, a deconstructed kebab of minced beef and lamb served with yoghurt, tahini, watercress pesto, tapenade, Harrisa and a mini pita, all bursting with flavour.
Taste of London 2015Chris Thompson, Duck & Waffle protégé, cooked up something fit for the Flintstones, but happily devoured by my dining partner and I. Other foodies greedily looked on, all asking eagerly where they could get their hands on the succulent braised short rib, smothered in vibrant jalapeño miso sauce.
Taste of London 2015Switching tracks to the sweet side, we visited Tredwell’s for some salted caramel soft serve, topped with ginger cake crumble. Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015And made sure we said hello to Chef Marcus Wareing, himself. Taste of London 2015
Close to bursting but looking to satisfy our sweet tooth with a final treat, we tried Duck & Waffle’s buttermilk and corn mousse with pistachio and toffee for one last bite.
Taste of London 2015Now that you’re suitably armed with a fair share of foodporn, who’s making their way to Taste of London Winter this weekend? Warning: sunshine not included.

Shake Shack Collaboration

You may have heard of a skinny Italian Chef whom skilfully shines with 3 Michelin stars upon his shoulder. Said Chef is known for being nothing short of crazy, with an obvious air of creative genius. Massimo Bottura, whose phenomenal, foodporn filled cookbook Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef was recently published (hello Christmas gift!!), is one of my culinary heroes. His restaurant nestled in the streets of Modena, Osteria Francescana, sits firmly atop my Foodie Bucket List.

Now if you remember, I told you about New York’s favourite burger being brought to London last year with the opening of Covent Garden’s Shake Shack. Well, restaurateur and personal hero, Danny Meyer (yes, most of my heroes are food related), launched a peculiar, but marvellous collaboration. Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati teamed up with world-renowned Chef Bottura and together the two created The Emilia. After being devoured by hungry New Yawkers, the beast was flung across the pond for a more civilised debut*.

*Read aloud in poshest accent manageable

You know when people show pictures of their babies (please don’t) and you think, “Do they know? Are they aware how ugly its alien-like head and horrifying facial expressions actually are? Should I tell them? No, best sit here and listen to the hundreds of awe-inspiring talents it has as it wriggles around in some ridiculous outfit.” But then, you learn of its ability to fit shapes through the correct holes, watch as it rides the family cat with perfect form and even struggle to escape from its super human grip. You’re impressed. A little shocked even, that such a vile, mundane looking creature has any capability to inspire. That is what occurred with The Emilia.

Now please don’t take this to mean I ever doubted the incredibly capable creators of this burger, but, just look at it.

Shake Shack: London

Shake Shack: London

Although Emilia won’t be winning any upcoming beauty pageants, she would definitely pack a punch in any flavour round. Named after the Emilia-Romagna region, this burger combines a custom-blend of 100% Aberdeen Angus beef patty with cotechino sausage and parmigiano reggiano. It’s then topped with salsa verde and Villa Manodori balsamic mayonnaise, which is made with Chef Bottura’s own Villa Manodori Artigianale balsamic vinegar.
Shake Shack: London
It may not be pretty, but damn is it beautiful! A flavour combination fit for the Guide itself. Shake Shack: London After a smile and nod to Chef Bottura, beaming warmly from behind a rave of flashing cameras, we tucked in to a creamy Big Blend concrete. This is a classic combination of chocolate and vanilla custard with St. John Bakery brown sugar biscuit and chocolate hazelnut brownie thrown in.

Moments later, with my mouth full of custard, the lovely and New York style friendly Mark Rosati joined us with something special. Shake Shack: London He and Massimo didn’t stop at their meat monster, they took the creativity a step further with something sweet. A beautiful blend of chocolate and coffee custard was topped with a generous drizzle of cherry balsamico. As someone that could happily consume balsamic vinegar on almost anything, this made perfect sense and was an appropriate ending to our casual culinary feast. Shake Shack: LondonFor the balsamic lovers out there, I urge you to pour a bit of good quality balsamic into your bowl the next time you indulge in some chocolate or vanilla bean ice cream. Thank me later and be sure to tag me in the foodporn @Alessandra_LDN.

Taste of London Winter 2014

Did you go to Taste of Lon…
Taste of Christmas….
No, Taste of London Christmas……..
No! Taste of Winter!

Oh, right. I’ve been informed this year’s food festivities are going by the name: Taste of London Winter.
Whatever its name, you know by now I love it. I love the mosh pit of foodies, friends, chefs, lovers, families and fiends, all scrambling to taste unlimited samples of food, snacks and an absurd amount of booze.

The day began being spoiled by Duck & Waffle protégé, Chris Thompson. A bowl of fried beef tendon with bovril emulsion and togarashi soon appeared.

Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Followed by smoked haddock takoyaki with curry, malt vinegar and raisin.Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Pandan with white chocolate and coconut ganache was a mouthful of sweetness.  Taste of London Winter Finished off with fried roti with banana and peanut butter.

We were then to vote which dish was our favourite – which would you choose?
After voting for the smoked haddock takoyaki, we skipped off in search of more plates to taste. Taste of London Winter Barbecoa had a predictably long line. We joined the queue catching up on recent adventures before eventually getting our hands on sticky short rib with mashed potato. The meat was incredibly tender, but lacked that smoky sweetness needed for such a sticky bite. Taste of London WinterWe then submerged ourselves in the rows of food stalls, with people pedalling their samples like merchants in a souk. We came across Balsajo, offering up a board of smoked black garlic, which is visually rather shocking. But, this black beauty is something delicious. We happily popped this in our mouths like candy and surrendered to the unexpected sweetness that followed. Taste of London Winter The lovely ladies of Azizi Drinks warmly welcomed us, insisting we try their concoctions. The fizzy drinks are created with hops to give the consumer that ahhh feeling of release after each sip. Yet, the delicious elderflower and rose flavoured drinks are actually nonalcoholic. The drinks were tasty and creators so sweet, I wish them the best of luck with their nonalcoholic endeavour. Taste of London Winter The rain continued to pour down from the heavens, but this didn’t stop things from heating up at Tobacco Dock. Taste of London WinterTaste of London WinterWe found Kurobuta nestled in the corner, a badass Japanese joint which I told you about back when it was a King’s Road Pop Up. We plumped for the BBQ pork belly in a steamed bun, topped with pickled cucumber and spicy peanut sauce. I begrudgingly shared. Taste of London Winter We passed this darling champagne van, sparkling in all its shining, bubbly glory. I sort of wanted to steal it and drive it round the dock, watching all the drunk people chase me with their half empty flutes. Taste of London WinterWe then found New York’s answer to the burger game. Shake Shack were offering their Lil’ ShackBurger, an Aberdeen angus beef cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. To my delight, given the closeness to Thanksgiving, they served up a deliciously spicy pumpkin pie flavoured custard.

Taste of London WinterThis guy basically served up a platter of dreams to my American heart. Swoon.
Taste of London Winter Action Against Hunger is an awesome organisation working to fight world hunger. Each year, they team up with award winning Chefs to create Taste dishes. This year’s muse was hot dogs, of which we selected Jason Atherton’s creation. His choice of apple puree with onions, topped with crispy pancetta and grilled Gruyere, I’m sad to say, did not please. The combination was unnecessary and altogether, wrong. He’s still a personal food hero, but this is not something to be added to the menu. Taste of London WinterMaida Vale sweetheart, The Truscott Arms had a truly wintery dish on offer. Their roasted cauliflower soup with textures of cauliflower, truffle oil and cauliflower crisp was really good. It was an airy, thick and rich creation with a creamy, truffley punch. Taste of London Winter Taste of London WinterTempted by anything pumpkin, I popped over to Andina for a bite of Peruvian picarones. Rings of pumpkin doughnuts served with purple maize honey.
Taste of London Winter

Running out of time with quite a few Taste Crowns left, we followed the smoke back to Kurobuta for some tea smoked lamb with smoky nasu and spicy Korean miso. A delicious final bite of this year’s Taste.

With a bundle of brownies tucked under my arm for the car ride home, we dashed out into the rain full of food and Christmas spirit.

Did you attend Taste of London Winter this year? What was your favourite dish? Tweet me @Alessandra_LDN or leave me a comment. Don’t be shy.

Oh, and did you see my big debut? I’m trying not to let the fame get to my head. I always knew my shining moment would involve pumpkin doughnuts… What do you think of the video?

Mayday Catch Up

There’s not actually an emergency.
It’s more of a catch up of May days rather than an international distress signal. But thinking about it, I don’t think a blog post would be the best way to alert the authorities. May’s a lovely month. It’s a glorious tease of warm weather, those first sunlit ice creams and lasting sunlight into the early evening.

It’s also been an incredibly busy month, so much so that in case you haven’t noticed, it’s already June. I know! I can’t believe it either. If you follow me on Instagram @Alessandra_LDN you may have already seen some of my latest adventures. But, let me fill you in on what’s been happening in lovely London. Grab a cuppa’ and something sweet because there’s a lot of eye candy in this one. And by that I mean photos.

Speaking of cuppa’, have you seen my new tea cup!? Now I know it’s not normal to have any sort of strong emotions towards a cup used for tea, but this baby has not one, but two walls! Two of them! To the average, ignorant Joe, unaware of the glass’ secret they may gasp in horror as I reach to sip from my steaming cup of boiled beverage. But fear not, my overcautious friend! There is a secret layer protecting my hands from the scalding brew.

Double Walled Tea GlassThis does however lull me into a false sense of security regarding the actual temperature of my tea and I have repeatedly burnt my tongue. But, we’ll ignore that as it is a double walled glass!
It’s the little things in life.

On a stroll past the local butchers, I had a giggle finding this little guy. Parsons Green ButchersIt looks as if he’s thinking, It’s…. It’s behind me, isn’t it?

What did the cow ghost say?
I just made that up. 

Natural History Museum Although we’ve been back and forth between winter winds and dreary drizzles, we did have a fleeting, beautiful tease of summer for a few days in the middle of May. All of London was smiling and its landmarks, such as the Natural History Museum looked positively stunning in the gleaming light. Royal Arts Academy I had a meeting at the Royal Academy Arts. Have you been here? I was greeted by what I’ve decided is an artistically modern interpretation of a frog. Art nerds help me out here. Tell me this isn’t a space frog?
The meeting was in the Academicians Room, a secret room tucked away in the depths of the grandiose building, which a lovely gentleman kindly escorted me to having seen the lost, bewildered look on my face. As beautiful as the building with its winding corridors and art covered walls is, the Academicians Room is simply breathtaking. I didn’t sneak a picture, so I’ll have to do my best to describe it to you. You enter through an unassuming door into a vast, rectangular room with a bar and organised sections of muted furniture. The room itself is a gallery, with beautiful pieces of artwork decorating the walls. But the main attraction here is the stunning roof made entirely of a skylight, letting natural light pour in. It’s a lovely space, the kind I’d love to have a secret soirée in under the stars.Salad Niçoise In need of a quick lunch one day, but never willing to sacrifice deliciousness, I made a monster of a salad Niçoise. On a bed of rocket I roughly chopped and piled high red onion, sweet corn, tomato, tuna, egg and sunflower seeds. I whipped together my favourite dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, wholegrain mustard & honey and poured it over top. A sprinkling of sea salt and pepper and voilà, a healthy mountain of deliciousness! Peanut Butter & Banana Speaking of favourites, do you ever just need a classic, simple snack to appease your sweet tooth and hug your insides? I give you: banana with crunchy peanut butter on wholewheat toast. Top with a squiggle of honey and we’re in business. Thames Sunsey On an evening run I wandered aimlessly in the direction of the river.
Anyone that knows me is laughing at the way I’ve casually mentioned an evening run as if this something I partake in frequently. We’ll call it my annual run as it happens about once a year when I feel a sudden burst of energy and urge to physically exert myself. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I don’t see the point in running unless it’s from something, in which case I should most likely save up all my energy incase such a circumstance shall arise.
When I reached the river, I watched the sunset over the Thames. There’s nothing like being in the presence of great bodies of water to put life into perspective. Whilst watching the boats gently rock and birds fly by, I noticed a riverside rose garden.
How delightful is that? Rose GardenIt seemed like some sort of strange wonderland with hundreds of different sized and coloured flowers hidden from the world alongside the river. Rose Rose As I made my way home, the sky turned from a moody darkness to a vibrant pink. Doesn’t this tree against the whimsical background seem like something out of a Dr. Suess book? Dr Suess TreesOn a gloriously wet day, we skipped along to brunch at a new little spot called Poppy’s. The sweetly decorated interior with big, open windows provided an appreciated respite from the torrential downpour on the other side of the glass. In need of some comfort food, he order the full English. For those of you outside this little island I call home, a full English breakfast is a cultural cornerstone consisting of sausage, bacon and eggs with varying additions of beans, tomato, hash browns, mushrooms and toast.   Poppy's Full English I decided to try the chicken salad with pomegranate, butternut squash & seeds. I liked the rustic style in which it was served, but really wished it had more flavour from the pomegranate and a lot less salt. Poppy's Chicken Salad Poppy's Not ready to brave the storm, we stayed for tea. Green Jasmine Tea And dessert… Brownie Sundae I went for the incredibly naughty brownie sundae and requested the peanut butter ice cream from another dessert be added on top. Can you blame me? Apple Tart with Banana He went for the apple tart with caramelised banana and Chantilly cream, which obviously had nothing over my choice. You can’t compete with chocolate and peanut butter. Uh oh, my American is showing. 
Piccadilly Circus
This isn’t the greatest shot of Piccadilly Circus, but I love that it portrays so many lives crossing, all following different paths but at one point, intersecting.
Shake Shack

We snuck over to Covent Garden one day for a bit of a feast. I’ve told you about Shake Shack before, but it’s been ages since I’ve been back. I stuffed myself with burgers, fries and concretes, oh and he had some, too.

We then waddled down to Fortnum & Mason where we skipped around the food hall like kids in a candy store. 
Purple AspargusThere were beautiful purple asparagus 
Wild Asparagus Bunches of wild asparagus

Mushrooms Tasty looking mushrooms & morels Purple Globe ArtichokesAnd stunning purple globe artichokes.

Baby BananasI was overly excited about the size of these miniature bananas, which made me feel like a giant, and may have let out a quiet squeal upon discovering the mini pineapples. Don’t worry, it was quiet, this is the royal grocery store after all.

Baby PineappleI began fantasising about a bowl of miniature fruits on my countertop before quickly being distracted by these beautiful Gull’s eggs.
Gull EggsBesides my obvious love for food, and apparently including those of miniature proportion, I’m also a bit of a stationary nerd. I’ve recently realised I may have a bit of a problem as I have more journals than I do purposes. But they’re so cool looking!

JournalsMay ended with strangely lit skies filled with pouring rain. English weather will never cease to perplex and irritate.

Rain & ShineI’ll never get tired of venturing around London. Do you have favourite secret spots or places to explore around London? I’d love to hear them! Don’t be shy, pop it in the comment section or send me a tweet @Alessandra_LDN

Shake Shack: London

I know I’m a bit late on this one, but you’ll soon forgive me as the food porn is well worth the wait.

Shake Shack finally floated across the pond and swung open its doors smack bang in the middle of Covent Garden early July this year.
Londoners & expats alike queued up for hours, desperate to get a bite of New York’s famous burgers.

I was away in America at the time, but as soon as I returned, I was determined to size up London’s most recent burger addition.

Now I know what you’re thinking, another bloody burger restaurant!?

But just take a look at this.

Shake Shack: LondonThe critics and bloggers went wild for the much anticipated arrival, not all of which particularly enjoyed their bite of the American style burger.
Yet, Shake Shack soldiered on, with their Covent Garden venue being complately packed out everyday. Shake Shack: LondonWhen I finally got the chance, I marched my way down to Covent Garden ready to well and truly tuck in after all that pre-holiday healthy eating.   Shake Shack: LondonI perused the menu before making my choice.
I of course had to go for the classic Shack Burger, a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce.
What’s ShackSuace? you ask.
A crazy combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, dill pickle, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne pepper which is then slathered all over your burger like frosting on a cake.

Shake Shack: LondonSince this was a celebratory feast of sorts (celebrating the opening of Shake Shack, obviously) I also decided I needed to try the SmokeShack Burger. This is an utterly filthy cheeseburger topped with a glorious combination of British free range Willshire cure smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and ShacksSauce.  Shake Shack: LondonTo accompany the burgers, a mandatory order of crinkle cut fries was made.

The burgers themselves were great, chips were crunchy and delicious, but I realised what has all the critics’ knickers in a twist.

London’s recent burger blow up has been all about the gourmet burger.
Shake Shack’s fast food contestant doesn’t fight at the same weight as London’s other competitors, which is why there has been a little let down amongst diners.
It is however, a delicious fast food burger made from good quality ingredients, served in a darling atmosphere.

Now for you Shake Shack virgins, I have one final tip.
Order a concrete.
What’s a concrete you ask? all bright eyed with wonder.
A concrete is a heavenly dessert of dense frozen custard ice cream that has been blended at a high speed and is served with your choice of mix-ins.

Go ahead, have a look.

Shake Shack: London

Chocolate and vanilla custard with marshmallow sauce was delicious…

But just look at the chocolate and vanilla custard topped with peanut butter and gooey chocolate hazlenut brownies from St. JOHN Bakery.
SwoonShake Shack: London Shake Shack: LondonNow if you’re still reading and haven’t immediately run down to Shake Shack to join the queue, just remember to gauge your expectations.
The burgers are great and venue is perfect for a group meal with friends or fun date.
But most importantly, you must promise me you’ll order a concrete and send me a picture on Twitter @Alessandra_LDN to make me utterly envious.

Oh and…
Dear Shake Shack,
Please make adult version of this for me to wear ASAP. Thanks!

Shake Shack: London