January 30, 2013

Muji Madness

Living in London is great for a lot of reasons, but my favorite reason is the accessability.  We have at our fingertips some of the best food, shopping, and sights in the world.  I'm excited to have discovered a Muji walking distance away from our flat.  Muji is a Japanese retail company with stores all over the world.  Their of top quality products range from gel pens, organizational products, clothing and furniture.  The best thing is that Muji products are reasonably priced.  This weekend, I snagged a set of gel pens for my new desk, the cleaning system (so cheap and super easy to store!), a storage box for my closet (I think I need at least two more), a trash bin, and a sushi omelette pan.  On my list of things to buy is the guest mattress/footstool for my office.

January 25, 2013

Ramen Wars!

London has entered into an interesting time for foodies. In recent months three large ramen noodle bars have sprung up around the city offering delicious bowls of ramen made of slow cooked broths and fresh made noodles.  The city is buzzing about the options and the different atmosphere of each noodle bar.  I've tried two so far and and this is a bit about each!


My first London ramen experience was Tonkotsu in Soho.  Tonkotsu gives you an authentic noodle house experience.  When you enter, you walk past two large vats of slow cooking, steaming broth and into a super crowded space.  On their homepage, Tonkotsu says "No booking required. ....we'll find a table for you.".  And they do not exaggerate this statement at all.  Chairs and people and pints of Japanese beer are all crammed across entire lengths of long tables.  The people on the outer edges have to get up in order to let you past them so you can get to your seat.  It's really an atmosphere well suited for the British if you think about it.  Everyone is politely ignoring bumping elbows and overreaching waiters.  I could just imagine Dallas diners being a little overwhelmed by the tight quarters.  As far as the food is concerned,  the broth is made by slow cooking pork bones for 18 hours and adding pillow soft ramen noodles along with pork and eggs.  My ramen was really quite tasty.  The broth is super smooth with a deep, rich flavor.  The garnishes were fresh and the egg and pork were perfectly cooked.  I'm always a little weary of the pork because it can sometimes come out a little over cooked and dry.  This pork was very enjoyable.  I'll go back.

Bone Daddies

Bone Daddies is a little bit different in that the ambiance is definitely more rock and roll.  And, I mean that in a vinyl-record-player-blasting-hair-band-ballads sort of way.  When you walk into Bone Daddies, you have to squeeze past a small, yet posh, bar where hipsters crowd together and sip Japanese whisky.  I will say, though, the authenticity of the ramen bar still finds you in that you still get squeezed into impossibly cramped tables.  The other thing that sets Bone Daddies apart is their extensive snacks and extra toppings offerings on the menu.  We noshed down on yellowtail sashimi and pork ribs before our ramen.  The pork ramen was smooth and had a little more spice to it than Tonkotsu.  I felt like we were served a little less broth here, though.  The pork was cooked nicely and the extra egg was a nice final touch.

The tables at Bone Daddies have garlic cloves and garlic presses available to enhance your ramen -- this was my first time seeing this option in a ramen house.  My favorite touch is the jar of black hair rubber bands at each table just in case a lady's hair is getting in the way of her ramen enjoyment.  Brilliant!
Our next stop on this ramen tour MUST be Shoryu Ramen.  I can't wait to see what they have to offer.  By the looks of things, they have also have an array of sides to choose from, similar to Bone Daddies.  I'm not sure we have a clear winner or loser here.  Both noodle houses have great food and unique atmospheres.  I guess we will just have to keep trying new ramen places until we find a definite winner in these Ramen Wars!..... that's going to be my excuse at least. :-)

January 24, 2013

A little Italian right around the corner

Before I came to the UK the first time, I had really low expectations on the food.  I'm glad to say that there is the same caliber of food preparation that you would expect from a leading world city.  I'm also glad to say that we found the most magical little Italian restaurant just around the corner from our flat.  You know the kind.  The maitre d knows you by name.  The wine list is extensive, but just enough to be accommodating and not overwhelming (they have my Bellavista on the menu).  The type of place where they just start bringing meats, and breads to your table before you even order.  Behold! Osteria dell'Arancio!!

Below is a sampling of the items we enjoyed.  The standouts were the octopus salad, which the waiter said was the most "chef-y" item on the menu (which, of course, sold us on the item) and the spicy pappardelle dish I had as my main.  Oh, and, yes, that is bacon wrapped around those lamb chops!

I'm excited because we are headed back for dinner on Jan 29 for a Barolo tasting.  We are going to bring some friends and try some free top of the line wines.  Can you think of a better reason??

January 22, 2013

Battersea Snow Day

We are moved into our flat in Chelsea and have been experiencing the most amazing winter weather in London.  As temperatures continue to hang below freezing, you start to feel restless hanging inside all day. In an effort to fight off cabin fever, we bundled up on Sunday and headed across the Albert Bridge to walk in Battersea Park.

The public parks in London are incredible and Battersea is no exception.  The park is on the south bank of the Thames, has plenty of walking paths, and, most importantly, is dog friendly!  The park was full of kids sledding and couples walking.  Oh, and plenty of dogs off leash who my Thomas could snif and meet.  I'm so glad we got out and enjoyed the day with so many other Londoners.

Such beautiful trees that dwarf the street lamps
My boys playing in the snow.
The Peace Pagoda looks especial tranquil covered in snow 
Thomas enjoying the walk in the snow
Snowman family -- their construction I can't claim, but too cute not to snap a picture

Super sized snow man! This group had been spending some major time getting this guy together.
View of Chelsea through the snow from Battersea Park