Wow, what a month it’s been. My entire August was gobbled up by the wedding – which was a rousing success, by the way! And now I can (hopefully) get my visa. Yaaaaay!
But I’ve neglected the blog, and indeed, I’ve neglected the sort of activities for which the blog exists. A lack of both time and money has precluded extravagances in culinary tourism, not to mention any creative endeavors aside from making invitations and placecards. Even so, August has seen several newsworthy discoveries and exploits on the viking front. Before I recommence posting proper, here is a recap of the past four weeks’ more interesting items:
- August began with the Great British Beer Festival, where I sampled a dozen or so excellent and almost-excellent ales from around the UK and around the world. I also tried the East London specialty, jellied eels, which sound, look, and taste like something from a Roald Dahl story.But the real revelation was the selection of beers from Italy, of all places. Like the brewers of Japan and America, whose beer cultures aren’t mired in “traditions” like those of England, Belgium, and Germany, Italian brewers adopt a playful, experimental attitude and a love of the local. I am convinced that Italy is the next frontier in craft brewing. Consider the three bottles I picked up at the festival: Shangrila Fumé, a strong amber ale brewed with spices and peat-smoked whisky malts; Barley BB10, a barleywine made from the reduction of a prized local wine; and Verdi Imperial Stout, infused with the heat of chili peppers. I plan to crack these open soon and have them with Italian cheese – stay tuned for tasting notes.
- I am a professional food writer! I’ve now reviewed two restaurants and one pub for View London, and I will be writing more for them in the future.
- Speaking of restaurants, I’ve been to a few recently that I must recommend. Head to Abeno or Abeno Too for perfect Osaka-style okonomiyaki and miscellaneous izakaya fare that’s only slightly overpriced. Sakura and Tokyo Diner are also wonderfully Japanese, both embracing the whole universe of Japanese cooking from katsukarē to mentaiko. Tokyo Diner in particular is fantastic – modest yet superlative, and dirt cheap. Cans of Kirin and Asahi are only £1.90!A bit further into Chinatown is Leong’s Legends, a Taiwanese-Chinese joint where the service is brusque but the food is special. You must try the xiao long bao (soup dumplings), but let them cool a bit before tucking in or you’ll scald your mouth something awful. Finally, we were pleasantly surprised with Anatolian Flame, a place we hungrily stumbled into after viewing some flats in northwest London. The service was charming and the charcoal-grilled Turkish food was excellent, such as the relentlessly juicy and flavorful lamb kebab with tomatoes served on a whole grilled eggplant with dill cream.
- I’m still going to the awesome, free life study sessions at Beach Blanket Babylon Shoreditch, and I wrote about it for a contest (which I lost) on Trazzler. If you’re in London and even a little bit arty, check it out. And if you’re not sure about the whole drawing thing, you can still enjoy a cocktail or two.
- I just finished reading Hops and Glory, a surprisingly non-geeky (alright, it’s a little geeky) book about the history of India Pale Ale. Author Pete Brown weaves meticulous historical research together with a spirited personal travelogue as he drags a keg of IPA on a journey from England to India that approximates the sea route along which the original ales were shipped. The book is peppered with sharp gastropolitical commentary and enlightening factoids, and in some places is actually suspenseful – not what I expected from a book about beer. Highly recommended to beer geeks, history buffs, or fans of good travel writing.
And now I’m off to the motherland for six weeks, where I will fork over nearly a grand to the British consulate in order to get my visa. Blogging shall continue while I’m there, and before long I’ll be able to post about trips around the UK and the rest of Europe!