Monday, 20 July 2009


If you're thinking about developing an American cookery book and magazine habit then I will give you a small piece of advice.


I know you've probably already got the measuring cups but believe me that is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

First you'll find yourself trying to translate a recipe into measurements that make sense. You'll attempt to work out exactly how much butter is in one tablespoon and will end up with a frankensteinian recipe utilising measuring cups, spoons, scales, and a good amount of crossing fingers behind your back for good measure.

You'll wish you had access to cake flour and butterscotch chips and cry, yet again, about how prohibitively expensive cherries are in this country.

Finally, and this is the most dangerous of all, you will develop a lengthy shopping list of essential kitchenware that you cannot live without as living without would mean resigning yourself to ignoring big hunks of baking books forever more.

And, so it was, that my must buy holiday shopping list included all of the current issues of all of my favourite US food magazines, a few cookery books, and, most important of all, a bundt tin. You can just imagine the fun I had lugging my case up five flights of stairs when we got home.

Bundts are not a regular feature in Britain so, sadly, there is not a big market for the heavyweight intricately moulded tins. I could have ordered one online but I wanted to see them in front of me and pick the shape I liked best. I was pretty surprised that Chris was on board with this purchase but I think the sculptural curves of the tin won him over and instead of wondering, aloud, where exactly this large tin was supposed to live in our already overflowing kitchen cupboards he stood beside me in Sur La Table and helped me to choose the shape for all our future bundts.

Friday came and an early finish from work meant I could sit on the balcony with my book for a couple of hours before knuckling down to some baking of the bundt variety. The cake of choice was a blackberry version of the blueberry raspberry pound cake from Molly Wizenberg's book which, in turn, is a recipe from the July 1986 issue of Bon Appétit. I swapped the blueberries and raspberries for blackberries and the kirsch for crème de mures. The resulting cake has a sweet crust, a firm purple stained crumb, and an easy manner that means it could be wheeled out for tea, pudding, or brunch. I suggest trying it for all three.

BLACKBERRY BUNDT (adapted from the recipe for Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)

2 cups plus 8 tablespoons plain flour (use cake flour if you have access to it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
2 tablespoons crème de mures
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Butter a standard-sized 9-cup Bundt pan and dust it with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour, the baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the butter and crème de mures, and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, don't worry. Add the dry ingredients and process to just combine. Do not overmix. The batter should be very thick and very smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour the batter over the berries and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, taking care that all of the flour is absorbed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours.

Transfer the cake to a rack, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan and onto a rack, and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Note. Sealed well and stored at room temeperature, this cake will keep nicely for 2 or 3 days. It should also freeze well.

Friday, 17 July 2009


I'm not always as good as I should be at taking photos of delicious meals so I'll have to give you a quick don't miss hit list of the places we loved and you'll just have to trust me...

Pearl Oyster Bar
I haven't been able to get beyond the lobster roll (buttery grilled hot dog bun piled high with lobster meat and mayonnaise with a side of crunchy straw fries) but if for some inexplicable reason this doesn't appeal then the tiny taste of Adam's halibut was great and I would have ordered it happily if it weren't for that pesky roll.

Momofuku Milk Bar
Sarah and Rob told us that we absolutely could not miss going here and ordering the pork and egg bun. They didn't go into too much detail so we dutifully ordered two buns and two blueberry beers not really knowing what would come. What we got was a bun folded over belly pork, hoisin sauce, cucumber, spring onions, and a soft fried egg. We ate while trying to avoid splattering ourselves in porky eggy hoisin wonderfulness and debated coming back later that day for round two. We bought cookies to take up to Central Park instead.

Phoenix Garden
Two years ago we were staying on East 34th St. and Adam and Renee (we have a habit of meeting up in New York, a habit to be nurtured I think) were staying a little further uptown. After deciding that we all fancied Chinese food to eat in our hotel room that evening we stumbled across Phoenix Garden on Zagat. Two years later we could remember that it was very good and we could remember that it was cheap but it took a little more digging around online to remember the name. We were visiting Adam and Renee's hotel a few short blocks away so it was an easy decision to call for a delivery. The food arrived and it was even better than we had remembered and, an extra bonus, even cheaper than we had remembered. A few nights later back at our hotel on our last night in the city Chris and I were tired and wanted food that was only available 24 blocks north and 7 east. We tried to convince ourselves that something else would work but all we could do in the end was succumb to our craving, hop in a cab, cross town, order food, go for a short walk, wait for the food while drinking a free jasmine tea, back into a cab, back across town, to sit down and look at out view and eat. We have a menu stuck to our fridge door now. Torture.

Cafe Habana
This was on my list of places to visit two years ago but somehow we didn't make it. Don't make the same mistake. Next time I'll go to the little take away place and grab an order of corn to eat while sitting on Elizabeth St. It's grilled and sprinkled with cheese, chilli powder and lime juice. I read a review describing it as crack corn and I would say that sounds just about right.

So, that's all from our trip. Now, there's a blackberry bundt cake in the oven and recipes to try. Goodbye Boston. Goodbye Providence. Goodbye Toronto. Goodbye New York.


We had always planned to spend a day in Brooklyn with Claire.

We hadn't always planned for it to start raining and then continue raining all day without a break.

We had always planned to go to Egg for brunch.

We hadn't always planned to be sitting outside under an awning watching soggy people wait under umbrellas while we ate.

My pancakes were the size of the plate and try as I might I couldn't quite finish them.

Claire's breakfast gave me my first taste of a biscuit. I always thought they were just like scones but they are lighter, fluffier, different.

Chris's breakfast of eggs rothko was a slice of toast with a hole cut in the middle and an egg cooked in the hole before cheese is melted on top. It was served with spiced homemade sausage which he loved but which would be a bit too punchy for my tastebuds in the morning (not a criticism just a comment, I have a fairly pathetic spice tolerance level).

The cafetiere of coffee was huge, the brown paper tablecloths perfectly designed for spilling, and the juice fresh.

After walking off brunch we dodged in and out of shops to avoid the rain as much as possible which lead to two new pairs of shoes for me and a big bag of records for Chris. Eventually we gave up on the weather and headed east to Alligator Lounge, a bar where every drink comes with a free pizza from the pizza oven at the back.

We headed back out into the rain to complete the Brooklyn experience with an evening at the Brooklyn Brewery. When the brewing work is finished for the week they set up a bar and welcome the hordes (mostly in wellies on this particular night) to drink beers and order from the takeaway menus scattered around. A fitting end to a good (if soggy) day.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Every so often, usually on a Sunday and usually after a late night, Chris and I will start talking food and will only come up with one option - Shake Shack. We go online and look at the photos of burgers, a form of torture that we should stop subjecting ourselves to, check out the Shack Cam and cry, yet again, about how we really should be able to live in New York. So, having already demolished a double shack burger, fries and the new Shackmeister beer as our first New York meal, it was a novel experience to wake up with a slightly fuzzy head and be in the location to eat the food that we really wanted. The hour long queue on a Saturday lunchtime is never going to be much fun but that double shack burger and those fries make it all worth it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


I've been trying to wirte a post about a deli we visited in Toronto.

It doesn't sound like a tough thing to do but everything seems to come out as pretentious twaddle.

I tried to describe where it is, 'imagine a Toronto side street, an unassuming building with a side door leading up to a dive bar' - twaddle.

I tried to describe the circumstances leading up to our visit, 'Sarah told us about a place that she and Rob had been planning to visit, a place famous for serving smoked meat sandwiches in an unpromising setting' - twaddle.

I gave up.

I'll just have to cut to the chase.

Caplansky's. Sit down, order, choose lean, medium, or fatty meat. Sarah and I say lean and are promptly told that a little bit of fat is a very good thing so we change our minds. Sarah orders coleslaw which I normally don't like but instead of being gloopy and mayo bound it is a tangy vinegary slaw which I taste, I order myself a plate. A bowl of cabbage borscht for Chris and sandwiches for all of us. A little bit of fat is a very good thing indeed...

Saturday, 4 July 2009


of a happy Toronto Sunday

I only wish I had taken a photo of us eating a hot dog from Leonard Cohen's favourite hot dog stand after seeing the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox (not actually wearing their red socks, very disappointing) at the Skydome on Saturday (I know it's called the Rogers Centre now but it is wrong. Skydome is clearly a superior name conjuring up an image of the Jetsons whizzing up from the Skydome and around the CN Tower in their flying car before heading home to their robot made dinner. Rogers Centre conjures up absolutely nothing, dull, dull, dull).

Thursday, 2 July 2009


We've been trying to plan a trip to Toronto for a few years now. I shared a flat with Sarah while we were on the same postgraduate course and she and Rob have been to visit us in both Edinburgh and London. We've shared our top food and shopping haunts with them and were ready to hear their top Toronto tips.

Ossington is an area firmly on the up and we spent the Friday morning nosing around the independent shops before jumping onto a streetcar to head west for lunch.

I had never heard of Jamie Kennedy but as we walked into Gilead Cafe and saw the lines of pickle jars on shelves lining the walls I knew I would like it.

Smoked arctic char, potato salad and some lightly pickled vegetables for Chris.

A cheeseburger with pickles, lettuce, and sauces on the side to add as I pleased for me.

Both dishes were more than enough to merit fond lasting memories of Gilead but I will really remember the cafe for this.

This is poutine with shredded short ribs. This is Jamie Kennedy's famous fries, topped with melting cheese curds, deeply meaty gravy, and shredded beef. My mouth is watering as I remember the taste even though I ate it over a month ago.

We shared this bowl between four but next time I'm getting one just for me.


In my first Boston post I very briefly mentioned a meatloaf sandwich from a Watertown diner.

Last night I got my first blog request from Chris. 'When you've written about Providence can you add an edit to your Boston post for the sandwiches?' How could I say no?

It was very wet when we left Providence and arrived back in Boston for our last day and night. I believe it is still that way now. We went to see the Shepard Fairey exhibition at the ICA before driving back to the house to put on more rain appropriate footwear and heading for the diner that Renee had been suggesting ever since we arrived.

I followed Renee's lead by ordering a Monte Cristo, that's a cheese and ham sandwich on challah bread, dipped in egg and fried to make it a french toast sandwich, and sweet potato fries (which I really didn't need but really needed to try).

Chris went for the meatloaf sandwich smothered in gravy and a side of spinach.

My sandwich was good but I think would need to be reserved for serious hunger / hangovers. If we went again I would go for the meatloaf. I can almost taste it now.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


I can't help but love the names of towns and cities in New England. Portsmouth, Chester, Plymouth, Boston, Cambridge. All named after places left behind. All (with the possible exception of Cambridge and then only because of Harvard) nothing like those namesakes.

And then there is Providence.

God's merciful providence.

Or, as we know it, Providence where Shea'la of Tiny Showcase lives with her lovely cats Nook

and the majestic Moose.

Shea'la lived in Edinburgh for a little while and when she invited us to stay we jumped at the chance.

We headed to Jamestown to look at the lighthouses,

and to picnic on the rocks.

We peered into rock pools, and then headed to Newport to see the old money holiday homes (you say home I say mansion/chateau/palace) of the Vanderbilts and their old money friends.

After a restorative G&T in a terrifyingly neon tiki bar (I swear I'm not making this up) we made our way back to Providence for a drink at AS220, a local arts centre, followed by pulled pork sandwiches and beers at The Red Fez and another chance to play with those wonderful cats.

I still don't know much about Providence but I know that I'll stay there for an extra night or two next time.