Veal for Breakfast

Veal for Breakfast

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Vitello Tonnato

300g veal

80g preserved tuna

1 egg

150ml seed oil

1 tbsp vinegar

Vegetable broth ( 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 potato— or any other

seasonal vegetables)

1 carrot

1 zucchini

1 handful capers

1/2 cup white wine

6 basil leaves

Herbs

Salt & pepper

  1. Make the broth by chopping the vegetables and bringing them to a boil. Let the vegetables simmer in salted water for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. Set aside.
  2. Select a piece of tenderized veal from the butcher and tie the top with a string. Wrap the string around the veal in circles tying one to two times as needed. Wrap the veal once more with the string and tie. Be careful not to wrap the veal too tightly in order to allow for expansion when cooking.
  3. Add olive oil to a saucepan and heat over high heat. Add the veal and brown on all sides until golden. Sprinkle with salt and continue to turn once more. Pour 2/3 of the wine over the veal and cook until wine has evaporated. Add a few ladles of broth and cover with lid. Let the veal and broth simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through, but still slightly tender. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. Chop off the ends and peel the carrot and the zucchini. Using a peeler cut the vegetables into thin strips. Blanch them in salted boiling water for 1 minute, strain, and pour into cold water. Set aside.
  5. Make the mayonnaise: in a hand blender add the seed oil, egg, and vinegar and blend until mayonnaise begins to form. Add the tuna, capers, rest of the wine, and salt for seasoning and blend until combined. Set aside.
  6. On a cutting board, slice the veal into very thin slices. Remove the blanched vegetables and lay the strips on a cutting board. Spreading 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise on a plate add 3-4 slice veal in a fan shape on top.  Roll the vegetable strips into the shape of a flower and set aside the veal. Decorate with basil leaves and several more spoonfuls of mayonnaise. Serve cold.
Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato

I have never had veal for breakfast, nor have I made my own mayonnaise. Its 9:00 a.m. in the morning and we’re busy preparing today’s meal while outside the temperature rises to a heat of 101° (41°) degrees. The kitchen smells of sizzling meat and salt from the tuna and capers. This is Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici, where I have enrolled for a month of cooking classes to study current trends in Italian cuisine in Florence.

Veal (baby cow) is a dish I would not normally eat, especially not for breakfast. While it is easy to prepare, it is not always as inexpensive to come by, nor as readily available and consistently consumed than in Italy. However, the phrase “Do as the Romans Do,” is not simply a choice, but rather an obligation in Florence, and I am compelled to follow my culinary teacher Anna Maria’s precise steps as she instructs us to make the Piedmontese starter of veal with tuna mayonnaise.

I have been back in Florence for seven days. Seven days with precisely no WiFi, varying water temperatures, and mysterious missing lightbulbs and modems. I have experienced the company of many lovely persons and things, including my new friends the family of pigeons who have taken up residence outside my bedroom window. I drive a rusty, squeaky bike, and am in tune to the sound of opera or drunken tourists wafting down the street on many sweaty nights. I have rediscovered my passion for my favorite phrase, “Andiamo a mangiare,” (let’s go eat), and am consciously aware of just how many pastries, gelato, cheese and wine I have consumed in the last seven days.

I moved to Florence two years ago because I couldn’t go anywhere else. Simply put, I had just been accepted to nine American universities but wouldn’t commit myself to four years in my home country without first experiencing something else. I’d traveled since I was a child, but felt an urge, more of a compulsive need, to get out of my country and go live a different life. One American university offered the opportunity for freshman to study abroad, and four months later I found myself in the Renaissance capital of the world committed to nine months in another country.

Flash forward three years and I no longer live in Italy or the U.S but rather, by a chaotic twist of fate, I have wound up living in an entirely different country and this summer, ended up back in Florence.

Florence is a place that has captured my heart and motivated my spirit. For centuries Florence has attracted many foreigners (some of them famous) who have wound up living here one way or another. For me, Florence is a city that holds a multitude of memories. Every time I walk into a supermarket, I cannot help but remember how my boyfriend at the time (or whatever you want to call him) once ate pancetta in raw chunks because he thought it was cured ham! Or, how every person I’ve met remembers me and treats me as if I’d never left at all and it’s no surprise to see me back.

Florence has often been described as Disneyland, or Fairy Land in my opinion. I cannot say how many times I’ve seen the view of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. It has been the opening reception and closure to every vacation or duration of time spent in Florence over the past three years. Every time I walk up those darn steps past the rose garden to the top of the Piazza, I always wonder why I bother to come up here as the view doesn’t really change. But every time I see the top of the city it stops me in my tracks.

“To take ones breath away” is cliché to say but personally I’ve never experienced the feeling. However, this time, unprepared and convinced it wouldn’t phase me, I lost all sense of breath or composure when I saw the view of the city. Maybe it’s because so much time has passed, maybe it’s because Florence is not always an easy place to be, maybe it’s because of the memories, or maybe it’s because I spent the morning pounding tough veal into proportionate squares, but my emotions hit me like a wall and I bawled like a baby.

This summer my saga in Florence will continue. The search for an Italian job will carry on, the feasting of aperitivo and Gusta Pizza will commence, the quest for internet will (hopefully) triumph, the drawn-out trips to the market for fresh fish Tuesdays and Fridays will prevail, the instruction at the hands of culinary and linguistic Italian professionals will be taught, the hauling of the very heavy bike up five flights of stairs to prevent the expected robbery will proceed, and the ritual of eating veal for breakfast will be incorporated into my daily schedule.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing an Italian summer with many culinary adventures with you!

Cheers,

No Abbiamo WiFi

Recipe grazie alle scuola Cucina Lorenzo De’ Medici 

 

City Break in Berlin

Berlin*

“Finally, after a week of recovering from Berlin, I have found time to sit down and write about it. Berlin was not what I expected. Having heard numerous times from multiple people about the wonders of Berlin, I expected a city radiating wealth, beauty, art, and architecture.”

Photo cred: Ellen Wright

However, much of the city, especially the outlying neighborhoods, appears demolished, almost like an industrial wasteland. While the old architecture remains, much of it has been rebuilt from bomb or fire raids and is still damaged in many places. Since it is winter, the city was dark, giving off an ominous lure and at times eerily quiet. The first day was spent exploring the city center; however, it wasn’t until that evening that I realized how complex Berlin really is.

Berlin is a labyrinth. To find the history, art, food, and culture scene within the city, you have to dig deeper, and when you do, you’ll understand why Berlin is renowned. I left Berlin in awe. At the end of four days, I’d barely touched the surface and left wanting to come back and experience more of this vibrant, pulsing city. It would be impossible for me to attempt to summarize Berlin, I barely had time to sleep let alone explore all parts of the city; however, I can highlight the best moments. As I often find, the most memorable moments, the moments when I felt connected to the city and involved in its life and culture, were not the moments planned and spent at the most famous sights or memorials; rather, they were the moments on backstreets, in cafés and bars, biking along the river, or eating street food late at night. These moments formed the reason I want to return to Berlin and my desire to experience more of the behind-the-scenes motion that makes the city tick.

Below are some favourites:

Döner Kebab + Beer

One of the best Döner kebabs ever. €7.00 for the kebab, side of chips & beer. Eat in.

The €7.00 Döner kebab, complete with chips & beer in Prenzlauer berg.

I went to Berlin with two of my best friends from England. We left London at 2 a.m, arrived at our hostel, Generator Hostel East Berlin, at 11 a.m, and spent the entire day trekking around the center. Come night time, all we wanted was a hot meal and a drink. After taking the wrong directions (either that or receiving bad advice at the hostel), we ended up wandering around some cold street with no decent restaurants and absolutely zero nightlife. Our hostel was of course open, but the scene surrounding it seemed to be one of fast-food chains and late night convenience stores—not super stimulating for three twenty-year olds in Berlin. However, after much deliberation, we finally gave in and went back to the hostel. On our way back, we bumped into what looked like a chip and burger shop but turned out to be a Turkish kebab shop with a little bar in back. Three hours later, we were closing the place down and had consumed some of the best kebabs of our lives. For only €7.00 we got a massive lamb, chicken, or meat kebab complete with all the trimmings, a side of chips, and a large beer. Not to mention the fact that the bar had very cheap shots of Jäger.

Stasi Prison & Exhibition

Talking photographs of former prisoners at the  Berlin-Hohenschönhausen memorial  (Stasi Prison), Berlin.

Talking photographs of former prisoners at the Berlin- Hohenschönhausen memorial (Stasi Prison). Photo cred: Ellen Wright

Security televisions at the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen memorial (Stasi Prison). Photo cred: Ellen Wright

Although we purchased a Berlin Welcome card offering reduced entry to most museums and unlimited travel for three days, we chose to explore most of the city by bike. On our second day, we rented bikes at the hostel and made our way towards the Stasi Prison. Needless to say, we got lost multiple times. However, we had some lovely nonsensical chats in broken English and horrible German with some charming older ladies in a flower shop, who eventually directed us to the Prison. When we got there, two hours later then planned, we were told the only way to see the Prison was by tour and the next English one wasn’t for three to four hours. When we asked if there was a museum, we were repeatedly told that this was not a museum but a memorial. However, after some friendly banter, we were directed to the free exhibition (museum) directly behind us.

The Stasi Prison exhibition was enthralling. Spanning four to five rooms, including the former offices of head directors at the Prison, the history of the Prison complete with details about the lives of the prisoners and the Stasi secret service police were presented through interactive video, text, and a collection of artifacts. A timeline chronicling the history of Russian occupation and the Soviet era in Berlin guided us through the exhibit and the different stages of development at the Prison. The exhibit was personalized to include extensive detail on the lives of former prisoners there with testimonials from survivors.  When entering the Prison, we had met a tour guide, dressed like a guard, who had chatted with us in good English and directed us to the exhibit. Once inside, we recognized his face among that of the former prisoner’s portraits and learned that today, many of the former prisoners volunteer as tour guides in an effort to work through past experiences and educate people about the history of the Stasi in Berlin. I left in wonder and in horror of the place, but grateful for the opportunity to experience such a well-curated exhibition.

Roses

Roses Bar in Kreuzberg. Open 10 p.m till 7 a.m Photo Cred: Zitty Berlin

Roses in Kreuzberg, 10 p.m till 7 a.m. Photo Cred: Zitty Berlin

Roses is a bar we half stumbled past, neglecting its tiny staircase and light-up sign. It was around 11:00 p.m when we arrived at Roses, and following the recommendation of a guidebook, we weren’t sure what to expect. Inside, besides the fact that we were the only three customers there, the first thing we noticed was the static pink fuzz covering every inch of the wall. I have been in bars and clubs that are decked out three stories tall in leopard print and jungle theme, but this place was as kitsch as I’ve ever seen. Every single corner, shelf, or wall space was covered in plastic flowers, animal heads, horns, weird Victorian paintings, zebra stripes, or an incredible amount of pink fuzz. There were two men and a women at the bar—no sign of a bartender— and a electric red sign reading, “Naked Sex-Party Every Second Thursday” (this is the point at which we practically ran out the door). However, after a few minutes of gawking and staring empty-handed at the bar, a woman got up, came over to us, and introduced herself. We quickly learned from her and the fellow bartenders that the sign was a joke, and that Roses didn’t really get hopping until around 4 or 7 a.m. The woman laughed, reminded us never to listen to anything a man says, and asked us, “Girls, what will it be?”

For the next few hours, we sat in the back surrounded by the pink fuzz, drinking and laughing. By 12:00 a.m, contrary to what the barman had said, the place was packed. Techno and house beats pumped over the speakers, and drinks and cigarette sparks flew through the air. It was like being inside some kind of wonder world and the crowd was eclectic, but welcoming. A predominantly gay bar, everyone seemed carefree; although, like any place, there were a share of oddballs. The staff we met looked after us, and they were kind enough to give us sound advice on where to carry on. I could have easily stayed hours, but the rest of Berlin called, so we threw back our drinks, said goodbye to the bar staff, and gave the pink fuzzy walls one last pat.

5 a.m Currywurst

5 a.m currywurst at Curry 36, Kreuzberg. Berlin's most famous fast food: fried sliced sausage, and chips covered in a tangy red curry sauce. Available everywhere.

5 a.m currywurst at Curry 36, Kreuzberg. Berlin’s most famous fast food: fried sliced sausage, and chips covered in a tangy red curry sauce.

Currywurst is the fish & chips of Berlin, except even more revered. Berlin’s most famous fast food, almost every street corner has a currywurst stall slinging the boiled or fried sausage, topped with spicy curry sauce and a side of chips, into the hands of eager tourists and locals alike. In Berlin, there is even a museum dedicated to the dish, The Deutsches Currywurst Museum, and it boasts the best currywurst itself.

Of course, the best time to eat a fried sausage with chips is very early Friday morning and lucky for us, that was just the time we were finishing our night out. Headed down the street in Kreuzberg, we bumped into Curry 36, one of Berlin’s well-established curry joints, in operation since 1981. They were just serving the last curries of the evening when we rolled in around 5:30 a.m. Deep-fried sausage and sauce-smothered chips in hand, we made our way to a taxi and headed back to our beds in the hostel. For €4.30 for two currywurst with chips, I could not have found a better street food deal in Berlin. And, of course, the hours of operation, 9 a.m till 5 a.m, were a plus.

Berlin by Bike

Biking along the Spree river

Bike lights in Berlin. Photo cred: Ellen Wright

By far, the best way to see Berlin is by bike. Unlike London, where biking rewards you with a trip to the emergency room, Berlin is designed for biking. Wide and well-allocated bike paths allow cycling on almost all major roads and routes around the city. Bike rental is cheap, less than €15 a day, and easy to find, as rental shops are everywhere. From Generator Hostel we rented bikes for €10 a day and it took roughly twenty minutes to get into the city center. Biking in the city was a gloriously easy experience and made getting lost joyful.

Beautiful places to bike included Museumsinsel (Museum Island), historic Mitte, the Neue Synagoge and the Jewish quarter, Potsdamer Platz, East Berlin, and of course, The East Side Gallery. We biked the length of the East Side Gallery, stopping to look at the most famous sections of the Berlin wall now more renowned for their artistic significance then the history behind them. Crossing the Oberbaumbrück bridge, we stopped for lunch and shopping at funky vintage stalls. We passed Galerie Heba, a gallery run by a father-daughter team dedicated to making sculptures out of rolled newspaper and complete with a small café/bar in the back. We poked our heads into German supermarkets, furniture stores, and had a good laugh outside a vintage stall, trying on over sized glasses from the 80s. Overall, the day was spent wandering wherever the bikes or river took us, and for me, it was the most enjoyable part of the trip.

Drinks in Friedrichshain

Friday night in Friedrichshain. Dachkammer Bar & Café, Simon-Dach Strasse No.39.

Friday night in Friedrichshain: Dachkammer Bar & Café, Simon-Dach Strasse No.39

We first stumbled across Friedrichshain in East Berlin during the day, by bike, while looking for a German restaurant. However, the cobbled streets and clusters of bars, restaurants, and speciality shops lured us back for our last night in Berlin. We never made it to the restaurant, but we did make it to Dachkammer a wonderfully warm and lively wooden bar on Simon Dach strasse.

Simon Dach strasse is one of the most popular streets in Friedrichshain and known for its late night bars and street life. We’d noticed Dachkammer during the day by its lovely wooden tables adorned with empty Hendrick’s jars holding fresh tulips, and its canopy of vines overhanging the building. Inside, at night, the place came alive. The tables and chairs were made from etched wood, the walls were exposed brick, low-hanging dimly lit chandeliers and individual candles illuminated the place, and antique sofas were provided for lounging. A recipe for an extremely over-priced hipster hangout, Dachkammer was the complete opposite. The vibe was laid back while providing a lively energetic crowd enough stigma to keep drinking. The bartenders were attentive and kind, and the cocktails were made fresh from scratch and strong—so strong in fact one was enough. At a price of €6–€6.50 per craft cocktail this place really was special, and I will definitely be back.

Experiencing Technocity

Berghain layout. Photo cred: Life Clubbing, Blogspot

Berghain layout. Photo cred: Life Clubbing, Blogspot

Ah, at last we get to the part about Berlin in which most people my age are well versed and experienced. Even if you’ve never been to Berlin, or visited Europe, you know about Berlin’s clubbing culture. Rated one of the best cities for clubbing not only in Europe, but in the world, Berlin’s nightlife holds a certain stigma. Infamous bouncers such as Sven Marquardt* guard the doors of notoriously hard-to-get-into clubs such as Berghain. Many foreigners expect to go to Berlin and have the most wild, crazy, time of their lives.

And some do. But many get turned away.

Tresor logoWhy does this happen?  While Berlin is certainly a city dedicated to party culture, and many do get to party, the attitude towards clubbing is much different than it is in America or England. People are there for the music and to dance; the idea of getting messed up or hooking up is not prevalent in their minds. Nightlife in Berlin is about maintaining a good atmosphere in the clubs, and those who threaten this atmosphere or diminish the quality of the night for others are not welcome. Overall, the quality of the music and the respect for Berlin’s clubbing culture is what makes nightlife in this city irresistible.

Inside Tresor nightclub. Photo cred:  Resident Advisor

Inside Tresor nightclub. Photo cred: Resident Advisor

Last weekend, I had one of the best clubbing experiences of my life. This was precisely due to the attitude towards clubbing established in Berlin. We arrived at a techno club called Tresor at 3 a.m. We spent the next ten to fifteen minutes waiting in line. We waited in a single file line, one of us ahead of the others, and didn’t drink, smoke, or chat. Pretty soon, we were let in. Tresor, like most clubs in Berlin, is located in an abandoned plant. Up until 2005, it was originally located in a deserted department store, equipped with a fully functioning basement often referred to as “the vault.” However, in 2005, the club closed and switched to its current location near Mitte. At first, the space seemed huge. However, on second look it became clear that it consisted of three interconnected floors, one of course being the basement vault. It was easy to get our bearings after walking around a few times. When we entered at 3:30 a.m, the place was just getting going and was crowded but not overly packed.

We chose to go to Tresor and not Berghain for the simple reason of not wanting to waste time. While Berghain is known as the ultimate clubbing experience, we had no way of knowing if we would get in and did not want to waste hours standing in line. Tresor, an equally good techno club, with a historic line-up of DJ founders such as Paul Van Dyk, Ellen Allien, Blake Baxter, Jeff Mills, and Mike Banks, offered a great alternative. Far less difficult to get into then Berghain, and with a large crowd of friendly people who genuinely love techno music, Tresor was an ideal option for the final night in Berlin.

Sven Marquardt, nine year bouncer at Berghain club, Berlin. Photo cred: The Guardian

Sven Marquardt, nine year bouncer at Berghain club, Berlin. Photo cred: The Guardian

*Sven Marquardt has since retired from his nine year position as bouncer at Berghain.He has recently published his memoirs Die Nacht ist Leben, The Night is Life, in German, and revealed his soft side.

Overall, top tips for Berlin:

  • Bike! By far the best way to see the city!
  • Generator Hostel is a great, affordable place to stay. The staff are informative, engaging, incredibly helpful, and overtly happy people. The hostel has all needed facilities, including breakfast, dinner, a bar, laundry, lockers, bikes, and even a free morning walking tour of the city. It is located in East Berlin. www.generatorhostels.com
  • In Berlin, street food is the way to go. Food stalls are incredibly cheap (€1.50 for a massive bratwurst !) and are located throughout the city. Many neighborhoods have their own street food festivals or streets dedicated to food stalls. International food is also good and a must!
  • For great views of Berlin visit the Dome at the Reichstag building, Berlin’s building of parliament. Tickets are free as long as you book in advance, and on a clear day the views are beautiful. www.bundestag.de
  • Mix with the locals! Experience the nightlife! This is really the best way to mix with Berliners and Europeans in general. Overall we found everyone to be extremely friendly and had no negative experiences. We put ourselves out there, but found many people who didn’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with us.

* Not for the faint of heart.

All writing and photography is of the author’s own unless otherwise stated. 

Sources

Night Club, Berlin, Tresor. “Club History | Tresor Berlin.” Club History | Tresor Berlin. Tresor Berlin, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://tresorberlin.com/&gt;.

Interlude to Berlin

Berlin, Germany 2007, Wikimedia Commons

Berlin, Germany 2007, Wikimedia Commons

There are certain ways to travel. There are certain ways to drink a cup of coffee, read a book, go for a walk, or eat a meal. For instance, Italians would say coffee should be drunk without three or four spoonfuls of sugar, with a small glass of water, and with a cigarette, preferably hand-rolled, on the side. My grandma would say a book should be read in the English countryside. It should be read feet-up on an outdoor patio surrounded by roses or while sitting in an oversized armchair at a sunny window. My friend, a chef, would say a meal should be cooked at home. It should be eaten with friends, and there should be wine, there should always be wine.

I started traveling because I felt compelled to. Three years ago, I sat in front of the computer with ten university letters in front of me and only one desire: to leave the country. Somehow I ended up in Italy and from there it seemed possible to reach the rest of the world. I have traveled in many different ways. From eating Indian on a couch surfer’s floor in Montmartre, Paris; to passing out on a ghost tour in Edinburgh; to walking miles back from the beach in Sicily; to staying, for less than $20 a night, in a villa overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea; to riding in the back of a milk truck hitchhiking across of Isle of Mull in Scotland; and to toasting with a glass of champagne at the top of a 12,510 ft mountain in Aspen, Colorado, I have never had the same experience twice.

This week I’m off to Berlin for the first time and there is nothing that makes me giddier than that feeling of heading out on the road. I have heard so much about the city, from its history, to its art scene, to its impenetrable nightlife. The next four days will be a whirlwind but I hope to soak up as much as I can while also remembering to just sit and relax.

There is really no one way to travel, nor is there any magical advice that makes travel easier, more affordable, or more convenient. In the end, it is always up to the traveler to discover what works for him or her, whether that be roughing it in a tent in someone’s backyard or renting an entire apartment in the city center. At the end of the day, if I have managed to put down the phone, look up, and walk away with something more than I had when I came, then for me, travel is a success.

Sundays on Shad Thames (Day Off in The Docklands Part II)

NewsCafeCaps3Un cappuccino!? Un café!? Cosa vuole amore mio!? Mornings begin with Marco singing this line. Roberto and Otto are busy at work behind the bar, churning out cappuccinos, macchiattos, and espressos while Marco’s wife Sabrina directs orders. The familiar smell of coffee mixed with tobacco fills the air. I look down in my cup and see a chocolate sunrise and blue sky; no need to order here, they already know what I’m having.

Marco and Sabrina are the husband-and-wife team behind News Café, a local staple on the corner of Piazza San Lorenzo, Florence, famous for its elaborately decorated cappuccinos and fresh food. While I was living in Italy, life began and ended at News Café. It was the first place I went when I arrived in Florence and the last place I went before I left. I frequented the café every morning on my way to university and almost every evening on my way home. The staff became friends, and Marco and Sabrina family. News Café was a community and formed the center of my life in Florence.

Italy’s coffee culture is iconic. The image of an espresso and biscotti is imprinted in the mind of coffee drinkers globally and the phrase prendiamo un café (would you like a coffee?) is nearly as widely understood as the word ciao. From cafés, to rest stops, to vending machines, coffee is easily accessible and always in demand. Like saying no to wine with dinner, everyone knows that refusing coffee in Italy is unacceptable. However, as historic as Italy’s coffee is, it is more vastly known and appreciated not for the origin of coffee itself, but for the atmosphere of Italian coffee shops. In the 1700s the growing popularity of coffee produced some of Europe’s oldest and most famous cafés in Italy, such as Café Florian in Venice and Caffé Al Bicerin in Turin. The cafés developed into a home for leading artists, intellectuals, and writers creating a community not just for Italians, but for great thinkers throughout Europe.

Today, the idea of Italian coffee culture has spread beyond Italy. Leonetto Cappiello’s classic poster of Victoria Arduino‘s espresso machine hangs in cafés throughout the U.S and Europe, and even Starbuck’s boasts Italian roasts. However, little of the authentic café culture exists outside Italy.  

Café Paradiso, Shad Thames, London

Café Paradiso, Shad Thames, London

Café Paradiso, located on the Shad Thames off Tower Bridge Piazza, is an exception. Owners Giovanni and Salvatore Salamone operate this authentic Sicilian café in addition to Olivelli restaurant in Bloomsbury, Mayfair, and Waterloo. Unlike the rest of Shad Thames, once a former dirty back alley during the spice trade and now home to some of the most exclusive real estate in London, Café Paradiso provides authentic Sicilian sweets and savories for an affordable price. Complete with friendly baristas and lively Italian chatter, Paradiso welcomes the loss of a few hours over coffee, books, or a laptop (yes they have WiFi!). True to form, Paradiso functions like a real Italian café offering both food, wine, and Italian products such as jam, chocolate, olive oil, and spreads. Wine is imported from Italy along with many of the ingredients which complete its Sicilian cuisine. Specialties include Arancini (Sicilian stuffed rice balls), Sicilian meatballs, the owner’s grandmother’s recipe, stuffed focaccia, variations on the classic cannoli, gelato made with 100% Sicilian ingredients, and numerous types of biscotti (cookies or biscuits as they say in England).

Most important of all, the café is filled with Italian locals who clearly understand the value of a place like this in London and stay true to the culture of Italian cafés by turning off their phones, tablets, or laptops and sitting down to chat and drink with each other for an hour.

Café Paradiso is located 45 Shad Thames, Southwark, London WC1E 7BS

Open 7 a.m till 7:30

ristoranteolivelli.co.uk/paradiso

Sources:

Stamp, Jimmy. “The Long History of the Espresso Machine.” Smithsonian. The Smithsonian, 19 June 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.

caffeflorian.com/en/

bicerin.it/eng/

Day Off in the Docklands

sunlight over Tower Bridge, London

sunlight over Tower Bridge, London

It is rare we get a day this glorious in London. A perfect 9°C (48°F), the sun is sparkling off the Thames and the sky is crystal blue with precisely placed clouds. You cannot stay in your apartment on days like these and lucky for me, I live close enough to Tower Bridge to get out and enjoy this brilliant morning by the river.

I’ve always been interested in the Docklands. Due to my love of water, backstreets, café culture, and history in general, the Docklands draw me in and offer an opportunity to explore some of the most historic parts of London while seeking some tranquility. Through a network of docks and winding cobblestone streets lining the river, the Docklands is a place that although vivid and alive, is also serene. So-called London’s only “island,” the Docklands, home to Isle of the Dogs, West India Docks, Saint Katharine Docks, and more, was once the heart of life in London as the city’s biggest trading port. Today, it is a place for sunny walks and afternoons in independent coffee houses, as well as  opportunities for big business.

Saint Katharine Docks marina

Saint Katharine Docks marina

Down to the right of Tower Bridge, nestled behind the Thames and referred to as London’s marina, a place for lodging luxury yachts, floats Saint Katharine Docks. Today, Friday morning, the Docks are quiet but will soon come to life. Every Friday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m on Marble Quay, The Good Food Market sets up shop. Although a small market, an excellent variety of food stalls are run by local vendors serving authentic ethnic food sourced from high-quality fresh ingredients and acknowledged by the Tower Hamlets Food for Health Awards. Options vary from Deeney’s Scottish Flavour serving up twists on classic fare, like The Macbeth Haggis Toastie; The Argentine Grill with the Argentine Steak Sandwich; Taste of Portugal; Fab Thai; Bubble’s classic, vegan, or lamb bubble & squeak; and a number of pastries and sweets including massive cookies, 4 for £5, from Galeta. The market offers some of the best fare I’ve seen in London, akin to the food stalls at Borough Market, for an incredibly reasonable price—almost all dishes are under £7–£8.

For a sit-down affair, or if the weather is too cold, which it usually is, head over the water to the strip of cafés that front the marina. There are several to choose from, but my favorite this morning, and a 2014 winner in The London Coffee Guide, is White Mulberries, a cosy café overlooking the water. The coffee comes from Allpress Espresso or other single origin roasters, the food is excellent, the staff and service is lovely, and the atmosphere is peaceful; plus, on a sunny day you can sit outside along the marina and sip away. If you fancy something a bit stronger, The Dicken’s Inn, dating from the 1700s and reopened in 1976 by the actual grandson of Charles Dickens, serves up pints and pub fare from balconies and a patio overlooking the marina.

All content is of the author’s opinion and all photography the author’s originals unless otherwise stated.

http://www.skdocks.co.uk/what%27s-on/good-food-market

http://www.whitemulberries.com/

Sources:

Allegra Strategies. The London Coffee Guide. London: Allegra Publications Ltd, 2014. Print.

“Expanding London’s Docks.” HISTORY. HISTORY®, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.<http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-london/expanding-londons-docks>.

“St Katharine Docks.” St Katharine Docks – Home. Thames River Services, 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. <http://www.skdocks.co.uk/>.

“The Dickens Inn.” The Dickens Inn. The Undercover Agency, 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.<http://www.dickensinn.co.uk/>.

Sunday Mornings on Columbia Rd.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

It’s a chilly Sunday morning in East London. The sky is blue and there’s a few strands of sunlight coming through, but it’s cold. Cold enough for my hands to be numb as I’m writing this. The smell of smoke and wood is in the air and I’ve a feeling that today, everything is as it should be.

Outside on the cobblestone patio, with a cappuccino resting on a dented metal table and my back against a red wicker chair, I Iook out across the street in front of me. To my left are a French and a Italian woman reading tarot cards and sipping tea. Next to me is a Brit in a red striped shirt, black coat, and black neck tie, selling single monster oysters on a wheeled cart and calling himself “Oyster Boy.” To my right is a group of young French men smoking cigarettes and drinking wine. The street sways to the sound of music from one guitarist, one cellist, and one signer plucking strings curbside amongst a pile of discarded Christmas trees. Behind me in the dimly lit shop entrance sits an older man on a stool with a pierced nose, colorfully tattooed arms, and multiple gold bangles up and down his wrists. He sips a Bloody Mary and reads The Times.

Printers & Stationers café

Printers & Stationers café

On the corner of Ezra Street, this is Printers & Stationers. Run by a cortious French couple, this tiny café feels more like someone’s kitchen or living room than it does a bar. Antique signs, including a large pink neon one welcoming you to “Celebrity Bar,” light the entrance. The walls are lined with built-in wooden shelves holding large glass bottles with rounded bottoms containing liqueurs like grappa, amaretto, and absinth. There are a few tables inside but most surround the café on the curb. However, heading towards the back, across creaky floorboards, there’s a tiny brick room with petite furniture and a miniature electric fire to keep warm. The owner’s children, a French daughter, and maybe a French boy, run around outside and through the shop. Food is limited, but there’s always something—a croissant, tart, or cheese—and this place is really about atmosphere and good beverage. A pair of blonde women in large fur coats ask to get their picture taken and they look lovely in the mid-morning sun, the whole place does.

Round the corner is Columbia Road, home to the cherished Columbia Road Flower Market, currently filled with posh East Londoners, trendy people from Shoreditch, mums pushing prams, and the tourists off Brick Lane. This is where you go for flowers, potted plants, and Sunday morning coffee. It is loud, crowded, and there are always five pound notes flying in the air, but this morning it is the perfect escape and Printers & Stationers is at the center of it. Here, my favorite things—eating, drinking, socializing, music and the outdoors—come together in one place that is best described as warm, in every sense of the word.


Columbia Road Flower Market is held every Sunday from 8 a.m to 3 p.m in the East End on Columbia Rd. More information can be found on their website available here: http://www.columbiaroad.info/.

Hello, London.

NY-style pizza from: http://www.thechowfather.com

NY-style pizza from: thechowfather.com

Its two a.m and I’m lying in bed thinking about pizza. Not just any pizza, a big floppy slice of New York style pizza. The kind of pizza that drizzles grease down your chin and leaves a stain on your shirt. The kind that requires two white paper plates and two hands. The kind that gives you the biggest bang for your buck so that an hour later you’re still marveling at the fact that that much pleasure costs only $1. I don’t even like American pizza, but tonight, two months in, lying in my little flat in London, that’s all I can think about.

When I first moved to London this past September, I was initiated into the British student lifestyle with late-night cheese toasties, the American version of a grilled cheese. I quickly learned that toasties were not the same thing as receiving midnight deliveries from the local pizza guys at the nearest 24-hour NY pizza joint. Living in Italy for a year, I thought I could handle the dearth of good pizza when I returned to the States; however, moving to England brings this lack to a whole different level.

I love food. I love British food. Growing up with a British grandmother, I had a brief glimpse into what the English cuisine might consist of (Sunday roasts, Yorkshire pudding, tea, and marmite on toast), but it wasn’t until I actually landed here that I discovered FISH & CHIPS. I’ll say it again because it deserves that much publicity, FISH & CHIPS. FISH & CHIPS with mushy peas, FISH & CHIPS with mini gherkins (pickles) on the side, FISH & CHIPS smothered in tartar sauce, FISH & CHIPS with smoked haddock, FISH & CHIPS with mackerel, FISH & CHIPS with cod, and the best version: FISH & CHIPS with pints of beer! And there’s also pie and sausage rolls. So, I haven’t been let down; on the contrary, I’m impressed.

So why is it that at two a.m on a Tuesday morning I’m fantasizing about American food? I’ve traveled the world and never craved American food. Maybe it’s the fact that most pizza in London comes frozen out of a box. Or that actual good pizza would cost me a day’s rent. Maybe it’s because there’s no cute delivery man to call at four in the morning. Or maybe it’s the mice running around the kitchen getting to me. Maybe I miss my mom’s cooking. Or Maybe the reality of spending $7.00 on a pint of beer makes me appreciate Budweiser and Dominos for the first time. Maybe it’s the fact that even in a country that speaks my own language, I’ve never felt like more of a foreigner.

The move to London was tough. It took a year to get here. A year of planning, of figuring out how to gracefully uproot my life, of explanations and expectations, of future anticipation, and of hysterical calls to the British Consulate, the University, my parents, and, if I could have, every single British citizen.

If you haven’t noticed, I like to travel and after returning home to the U.S, the only thing I could think of was going back to Europe. It was my absolute dream and obsession for all of 2014. So, what is there to say now that I’m here?

The first time I went to London I was on holiday. I stayed in Highgate, a perfectly picturesque city neighborhood overlooking one of London’s biggest parks, Hampstead Heath. I rode the bus a short way to happening Camden Town, known for its international food, unique shops, and live music. I of course went to very old pubs and stuffed myself with FISH & CHIPS or pie. I toured around universities and spent my free time riding the ferry to Greenwich, visiting friends in Bath and Bristol, and partied at the top clubs, Ministry of Sound and Fabric, in the evenings. I lived the tourist’s dream as best I could.

Today, none of that is my daily reality. I live in East London, and when I walk outside my door, I am the minority. Famously Bangladeshi, East London is composed of sights, smells and culture I’ve never encountered before, much less thought I would find in England. I don’t just see chubby red-faced Englishmen laughing over pints at the local pub or Doc Martin-donning hipster students sipping coffee in Shoreditch; I see much more.

When I walk out my door I’m in Bangladesh, or Israel, or China, or Jamaica, or India. I smell incense, curry, raw fish, meat, salt-beef bagels, and cider. I hear Italian, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Mandarin, Cockney, Bengali, Welsh. I see old and young men and women dressed in scarves, hats, burqas, saris, tweed, suits, ties, slippers. I feel in awe; I feel overwhelmed.

So far my two favorite things both involve food and almost every international culture I can find. They are Borough Market in the morning and Brick Lane on a Sunday. Because I can’t live on FISH & CHIPS alone, and do need satisfaction from life other than food, these places represent my need for travel. They are filled with antique people, places and things. They contain vibrant culture, music, and support a scene for young and old alike. And yes they provide food, every. kind. of. food.

So, out of 1,572 square kilometers that is London, I may not find a single slice of affordable NY-style pizza, but I’ll find much more. I’ll continue to feel small, white, and at times American, but I’ll also continue to be surprised by the people I meet, the food I eat, the kindness I encounter, and as political science and human rights activist Ralph Crawshaw once said, I’ll continue to “experience firsthand how others do differently what [I] believed to be the right and only way.”

Until next time,

Cheers

 

Sources:

The Chowfather. “The Chowfather.” : Tiers of Pizza. N.p., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thechowfather.com/2013/10/tiers-of-pizza-best-pizza-south-florida.html&gt;.

 

All writing and photography is of the authors own work unless otherwise stated.