Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Christmas in London

Christmas Eve 2009 was our first (real) foray into English food. The salt-lick, yet strangely intriguing, baguette sandwich we had at Heathrow upon arrival doesn't really count. So, other than stocking up on crisps, not knowing if anything would be open where we could get food on Christmas Day, we ventured into the Jack Horner Pub for dinner. 

At first it felt a little weird to be in a pub at Christmastime, but a pint of Fuller's and some cheeky Brit fare changed our attitude entirely. The fish and chips came highly recommended by some fellow guests and then we took a chance on the Jack Horner Pie (specialty of the house)- a shepherd's pie type dish filled with meat and veggies. Both delivered on being delicious and filling. Who said English food is bland? We found it quite enjoyable; nothing a wee shake of salt couldn't cure! ;)

Score one for the London food scene so far. Sure, this was one of many in the Fuller Ale and Pie House chain, but it had the feel of a nice cozy local pub. Good beer, great food and fun people watching! Cheers to the Jack Horner Pub!

Jack Horner Pub, Tottenham Court Road

Of course, we opted out of dessert and decided to stock up on crisps, biscuits (aka cookies) and chocolate! Then off to the hotel to relax, watch some BBC on the tube and indulge in some nontraditional Christmas snacks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I've always enjoyed potato chips, finding it hard to resist their salty goodness (especially with Bison Chip Dip). In England, however, they take their "crisps" VERY seriously! Funky flavors abound... I just wish I could try them all! (Well, maybe not the Prawn Cocktail flavor.) Even plain crisps aren't called plain; they're "Ready Salted." How very properly English. Of course they have the standard Cheese & Onion, Salt & Vinegar and such, but why bother? We can get those stateside. Here's a sampling of some creative flavors:
  • Steak & Onion
  • Smoky Bacon
  • Roast Chicken
  • Pickled Onion
  • Worcester Sauce
  • BBQ Rib
  • Paprika
  • Sweet Chili
  • Roast Beef & Mustard
  • Smoked Ham & Pickle
  • Fish & Chips
Determined to find a favorite, we had to sample a variety of flavors from various brands. While we didn't have a bad crisp (even Walker's- their version of Lay's- did a fine job), there was a definite winner: Marks & Spencer Taw Valley Cheddar and Caramelised Shallots. I don't know where Taw Valley is, but I must go there some day to pay homage to this exalted crisp.

All hail the King of Crisps!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

English Breakfast

It's not just a meal; it's an adventure. English Breakfast is not for the diet-conscious and/or the conservative eater. I'm pretty sure you could eat this meal in the morning and bank enough calories and fat until the next week!

So what is included in a full English Breakfast?
  • Bacon (back bacon, actually... most likely mistaken for ham)
  • Poached eggs
  • Fried tomatoes and mushrooms
  • Toast
  • Sausages
  • Baked beans
  • Hash brown potato cake
  • Tea
  • Angioplasty (Well, it should come with it!)
Yes, everything is fried. Even the toast. (I think.) So when you stay at a hotel in London around Christmas and you're not sure if anything will be open on Christmas Day, stuff your face with a full English Breakfast just in case there is no food to be found for the rest of the day. Of course, we were really paranoid that this would be the case, so we even added fruit, cereal, juice and pastries! Contrary to what everyone told us, however, there were plenty of places to grab a bit to eat, like the Charles Dickens Coffee House. While Chuck was not known for being a barista, apparently he actually lived and worked in that actual building. But I digress...

In summary, the full English Breakfast is NOT to be eaten daily. (Have you ever seen "SuperSize Me?") Though if you need to fill up or fulfill your fried food jones, it's exactly what you need. Just bring lots of Tums. Just couldn't get enough the first two days- we went out our last morning and had to get one last fill!

Thanks, Arosfa Hotel, for serving a killer breakfast!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


English food? Really? Really! 

Despite many warnings about bad food, we jetted off to London last Christmas anxious to experience life across the pond. Don and I still reminisce about our British food encounters, trying to rationalize why we actually loved everything we ate there. Now, we generally will eat just about anything and tend to be moderately adventurous when trying new foods. (We draw the line at organs, insects, and worms!) We do, however, try to avoid chain restaurants; not only do we prefer to support local businesses, but we are not fans of relatively unimaginative, processed food we can get anywhere. So does everyone else who has been there have really high standards while ours are really low? We can't imagine that's the case. Sure, British fare is not known for its intense flavor and seasoning. Then again, we sometimes can't resist some good old comfort food like fish and chips or meat and potatoes. We were told to go ethnic, so we did. We also just delved right into the local dishes and loved them. When in Rome... er, London!

Stay tuned...
  • Meat pies of many varieties
  • Turkish Christmas
  • English Breakfast
  • Fish and chips
  • Tapas
  • Pizza
  • Chinatown
  • Crisps
  • Hot dogs (yes, in London)
  • Polish New Year's Eve
  • Marks & Spencer and Tesco
GIANT paella at Covent Garden (about 3' across!)