Sunday, December 17, 2017

And I thought I wouldn't see a snowman this year

OMGYOUGUYS. It's Pre-Christmas-Christmas, the time every year when Al and I celebrate the holiday, just the two of us. It's a day for a big, slow meal, a roaring fire, blankets and books and our exchanging of gifts. We do this every year since the Day itself we're always in Scotland surrounded by family and it would feel strange to pack our bags with presents for each other, just to bring them all back home again. No, it turns out one can have many Christmases, and this little tradition feels as special as the loving fullness of the 25th itself, with the children and the chatter and the lovely food in the midst of the rustic beauty of the Scottish borders.

We went for a Christmas brunch this morning, and it led us through Liverpool Street Station, which is terrific on a Sunday when it's quiet and empty.

I had the Merry Berry Benedict at Polo Bar, with stuffing and chilli cranberry sauce, which was good, if not special. The stuffing was a nice addition but I was more pleased with the fact that the eggs were perfectly poached, which is always a risk at a place like this, a 24-hour diner in a commercial district.

Now it's time for a bath before we light the fire and start the roast. I got this hilarious bath bomb for Christmas and look forward to seeing how long he'll last before succumbing to a fragrant, bubbly death:

Look at the sadness in his eyes. This is the best.

Much love to you all, and I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday,

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday night is the new Saturday morning

HAPPYSATURDAYYOUGUYS. We are halfway through the month and things are ticking nicely along. Still a scratchy throat - but no complaints there, I actually found myself thankful I couldn't speak at a social occasion last weekend - but there's no accompanying head cold and I have plenty of energy so it's not ruining my social life (in fact, it may be improving it, per the above).

Today we've got a Chrimbo pub crawl followed by a good friend's birthday party and it all conspires to be very lively and full of fun. It's dark by 3:30 these days so 7 feels like midnight and midnight feels like an all-nighter and all this means we feel young and wild by 9 and absolutely reckless by 10, which is generally the point we're hailing a cab straight to our local filthy pizza, cackling away (a treat we enjoy all the more because we eat it in bed while watching netflix).

In short: it's going to be a good night.

Leadenhall Market, Wednesday afternoon

But first: breakfast. See you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, December 15, 2017

Time to feign some domesticity

Alright youguys, I have 19 minutes to blog before the washing machine stops and I have to start ironing while the going is damp and the pressing is easy. Then it's time to make dinner - a healthy one, no less - and relax for what may be the first time this entire manic, burger-fuelled, proofreading-crushed week.

Speaking of burgers, last night we had our last one for the week - this time from Mac and Wild - which was a venison burger with pork stuffing, melted Morangie brie, red cabbage, and shredded sprout tops. This burger - like Hawksmoor's - stands on the power of its perfectly cooked, high quality meat. Which is good, because the red cabbage came on as aggressively as a Roman centurion and there wasn't enough brie to give it a passing fight.

I dismantled this entire burger trying to find the cheese, which was the complete opposite of Bad Egg's, where I couldn't find the burger. Like last year, it was a tiny smear, looking much like an anemic swab of mayo, and its stinginess irritated me almost as much as the three million corporate Christmas parties hollering at the tables around us. But we more than made up for it with the haggis macaroni and cheese, and will definitely be returning for their regular burgers at another, less festive time of year. 

AW SHOOT. The machine has quit rumbling across the floor and now it's gone into the high-pitched whine of the spin cycle. Gotta go, much love and hugs,


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gonna have to do a Salad January

OMGYOUGUYS. I'm almost done with my Christmas burgers. I've only got two left and then DUNZO for another year. There are a few that I regretfully didn't have a chance to hit that I loved last year (Lucky Chip, Blacklock) but I got to try new ones (FUGBK, Red's) and all around it feels like a success. (For my taste buds, if not my health.)

Here are the Christmas burger/sandwiches I have had in the last 24 hours: 

Bad Egg: A rare breed beef patty, with roast beef, gravy, horseradish, caramelised onions, and cheese fondue. 10/10 for the absolutely pornographic cheese waterfall and being served in a bowl of gravy (is gravy the new cranberry sauce? Last year I only recall two burgers getting served with it - Hawksmoor and Blacklock - but this year, it is EVERYwhere. Even the hot dog had it!), but flavour-wise, the real standout wasn't that golden fountain or that meaty moat - shocking - but the horseradish. They would've done well to layer it between the meats rather than on the bottom bun so every bite got a hit. (I also have to say I also don't love having to knife and fork a burger - it's so hard to get every element together in a single bite and isn't that the point?)

Then, of course, we have MeatLiquor, who had not one but THREE Christmas sandwiches on the menu. I didn't bother with the XXXmas burger after last year's debacle but happily tackled the two new ones with my buddy Mike - a hero who joined me on his lunch break to help - and the most prolific burger-lover I know in London. We shared the Turkey Cheesesteak and the Burgducken. 

Let's start with the cheesesteak, which was "a free-range roast turkey bathed in gravy with melted camembert, crispy stuffing crumbles and cranberry sauce": the photo I took above (left) doesn't do it justice. It was really, seriously yummy. It actually tasted - more than anything else I've had so far - like Christmas. The turkey was moist and flavourful, the cranberry sauce sweet-but-not-too, and the stuffing - well, who doesn't like stuffing. This is the sandwich you actually make out of leftovers the day after the holiday and it got to the true spirit of things.

Now for the Burgducken: the creation of Tom Kerridge and Nick Beardshaw (of Michelin-starred famis place and famis place) made this take on the turducken, which is '5 birds (turkey, duck, chicken, pigeon & pheasant) minced with pork belly, deep fried in southern fried panko breadcrumbs, with brandy and cranberry mayo, brussel sprout 'slaw, xxxmas pudding ketchup, and topped with a free-range piggy in a blanket.' Got all that? It was tasty, this gimmickiest of gimmicks - but I can't say my unrefined palate was able to discern what all those other birds added to the affair, other than maybe structure, or comedy. Didn't taste the pork belly at all, but it probably gave it some juice. The cranberry mayo - that horrifyingly pale purple sauce - had tons of orange zest in it that livened things up, and the slaw - well, like the stuffing above - was likeable. It was surprisingly easy to eat, despite its girth - bonus points for that - though as Mike pointed out, 'It's one of those burgers that once you pick it up, you can't put it down again or it goes everywhere.' 

Tonight I hit my fourth Christmas burger and then take a break - lest the gout seek and find me - until my last one next week. I still have my eye on a Christmas burrito, and a Christmas brunch, but only time will tell if I'll manage them. May have to figure out how to (ugh) jog or something if I plan to keep this up. 

I've got to get back to work now - these Romans are literally tearing things up in Germania and it's thrilling - but I'll see you tomorrow! (By the way, if you have any recommendations for decent ways to work out at home - any youtubes you like? an app? - send 'em my direction, so that at the very least I can feel guilty that I'm not doing them, and satisfied that I've asked.)

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

a hot dog, a book club, and a Christmas Carnival

OMGYOUGUYS. LET'S DO A POST, SHALL WE. Unlike last night, when I was a half-second from sleep before foggily remembering - then jerking awake - THE BLOG! I fumbled blearily for the laptop, stumbled out an entire sentence, and then immediately fell back asleep, blissfully content that I had written SOMEthing, coherent or otherwise.

But now, after that brief intermission, the show must go on. 

I had the best night: I had my first Christmas hot dog - a DELIGHT - and a Christmas party with a wonderful group of lively women (and a man) at book club. This particular club is casual, funny, and full of warmth, and I haven't laughed so much in ages.

The best (well, depending on my mood, or how late I'm running) part of meeting in Picadilly is the chance to cut through a charming part of the city, notably this time of year. It's not an area I venture into often - what with crowds, and not being much of a shopper - but they always dazzle it up at Christmas time with absolutely bizarre themes. This year was no exception, and I was overjoyed:

Nothing says Christmas like celebrating Lent.

Then I went to Foxlow for their Christmas hot dog: a free-range turkey sausage, slow-smoked sugar-pit bacon, sprout tops, and cranberry hot sauce in a toasted brioche bun. Also the obligatory gravy tureen, which is the feature that keeps me coming back again and again. It was SO GOOD.

 Just LOOK at that thick-cut sweet, crispy, tender bacon. LOOK at it.

Today has been good - I did my proofreading from the bed, where I could spread out all my maps and character lists, and really create a sprawling Roman empire - which is appropriate, since this book is about the Batavi Revolt - and helpful, since these battles are COMPLICATED. Now it's time to put on some Outside Clothes and head to south London, where I'm meeting a friend and then returning home (via one more Christmas dish) to do a little more work before bed. 

Hope your days have been lovely, and until tomorrow,