More Touring Before We Mount The Orient Express. Episode Four: Exploring London’s Many Attractions. By Mary Ann Fitzmorris.
London is the capital of what I call the ampersand retailers. Two owner names are rampant in men’s stores here, but I only have two ampersands on my list: Rigby & Peller, and Fortnum & Mason. I was shocked it took me three days to get to these.
At Fortnum & Mason, I didn’t have to gawk for a day this time, so I went straight to the list of favorites. Most of my time was spent at the loose tea counter, watching them weigh tea and seal the gorgeous turquoise bags. It is tradition for me to get carried away by something here, and today it was Easter offerings.
My driver’s license insists I am a Baby Boomer, so even though I’m not a true fan, at some point dropping in on Abbey Road is required. The studios where the music that rocked the world was created sit in a quiet neighborhood. It is smallish, and white, except for occasional graffiti love notes to the Fab Four.
From there I drove to Highgate, an affluent “suburb” with a cemetery that is quite well-known for its famous residents. This was the most ethereal, hauntingly beautiful place! Trees with billowing leaves spring up between graves of centuries past piled on top of each other, covered in a blanket of ivy. I was mesmerized. No wonder they can charge admission. (Also, Karl Marx is buried there.) Jarring in death as in life, the oversized bust of his scowling face wrecks the serenity here, metaphorically towering over the little people.
It took nearly two hours to go three miles back to the hotel. When I saw that the road closures of the critical West End nexus of Marble Arch/Park Lane and Piccadilly were for a march for socialism, my head nearly popped off.
I discovered in an earlier walk near the hotel that we were only a block from the Victorian Theater, where “Hamilton” is currently based. I stopped in at the box office to see about returned tickets. The line for these was outside in a ferocious wind, but we were soon offered standing room only at 12.50 GBP . (Yes, you read that correctly.) Tom didn’t want to stand (Tom Sez: and with good reason, the freezing winds blowing heads off). That was the closest I will ever come to seeing the world’s hottest play at a price like that.
Back at the hotel, I begged Tom in vain to just walk the mile to Veerswamy on Regent St. We never did make it that far in the car, settling for another restaurant in that group, Chutney Mary in St James. We just missed lunch, so we had a snack in the bar.
Tom thought it too cold to walk and too annoying to drive, so I grabbed the opportunity to visit a few things only I am interested in.
I had crab cakes! And yes, they were Indian. Called Goa Crab Cakes, I almost choked on the intense spice in the sauce. Tom had a vegetarian dish with melted cheese and tomatoes and that addictive, always perfect basmati Indian rice.
Back at the hotel, we just had time to get presentable for dinner. This may have been the high point of the trip for Tom. Goring service with impeccable food? Unbeatable!
My favorite thing about this dining room was not the perfect food and service, but the Lord David Linley chandeliers made of Swarovski crystal. Lending a pop of elegant whimsy to this staid and traditional space, the rose and periwinkle glass “petals” softly diffused the light in such a way as to make the room sexy. But only in the classiest way. This is the Goring, after all. Tom had scallops and then lamb. I had risotto. This meal literally thrilled Tom. The 100 GBP “amenity” credit toward the bill thrilled me.
Old-Style Oyster Stew
This is the oyster stew that was once common in the casual seafood restaurants, especially around West End. Like West End it self–which was totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina–this dish is little more than a memory. But it’s a very good memory, and one we can revive in our own kitchens. The element that makes the biggest difference is the oyster water, which you can get from your oyster dealer if you give a little advance notice.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 Tbs. chopped onion
- 1 Tbs. chopped celery
- 1 quart oyster water, strained well
- 1 pint half-and-half
- 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried
- 3 dozen oysters
- 4 green onions, chopped
- Salt to taste
1. In a saucepan, heat the butter and sauté the onions and celery until tender.
2. Add oyster water, half-and-half, and peppercorns. Bring to a very light simmer and cook slowly for fifteen minutes.
3. Add oysters and green onions, and cook for another three to five minutes, until the oysters are plumped up and the edges are curly. Add salt to taste (you may not need any, depending on the saltiness of the oysters and oyster water).
March 28, 2017
French Quarter Festival April 2-5
Easter April 21
Jazz Festival April 26-May 5
La Petite Grocery, an excellent restaurant on Magazine Street a block from Napoleon Avenue, opened today in 2004. In a way, it was a spinoff of Peristyle, where Anton and Diane Schulte worked before opening the Grocery with partner and gourmet caterer Joel Dondis. When they left to open Bistro Daisy, Justin Devillier took over as chef. He has since bought the restaurant.
Le Petite Grocery (Uptown, 4238 Magazine. 504-891-3377). is named for the Frank A. Von Der Haar Grocery, a first-class food emporium that operated for decades in the building. The renovation that resulted in the restaurant left a few signs of the old days (I remember the ceiling in particular). La Petite Grocery was one of the first major Uptown restaurants to reopen after the hurricane. For many Orleanians, it was the place where they reconnected with friends after the storm, and saw that it was possible for the life we love to go on
Great American Brewers
Now here’s an odd coincidence: August Anheuser Busch Jr., the long-time boss of Budweiser, was born today in 1899. And Frederick Pabst, for whom that brand of American beer is named, was also born on this date, in 1836.
Victor Mills was born today in 1897. He lived to be 101, which gave him time to achieve several major advances in the food world. His method of milling flour for cake mix made Duncan Hines into the country’s dominant cake mix brand. He figured out a way of keeping the oil in peanut butter from separating out–and Jif was born. Then he devised the method of stacking potato chips that led to Pringles. He also worked on the other end: he created Pampers.
Deft Dining Rule #7:
All other things being equal, a new pleasure beats the repetition of an old one.
Eating Around The World
Today in 1930, Turkish authorities changed the name of Constantinople to Istanbul. In the same stroke, they changed the name of bean dip to hummus.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Add what seems like the right amount of lemon juice to your hummus recipe, then add that much again. It strikes flavor-heightening battle with the bitterness of the garlic and the chickpeas.
Music To Dine By
Be My Love, the biggest hit recorded by Mario Lanza, reached the top of the charts today in 1951. It is heard frequently in Italian restaurants everywhere. . . On this date in 1899, William Fleming received a patent for an electrically operated player piano. Many restaurants have grand pianos, but few have matching pianists. The gizmos now available to play the piano electronically are amazingly good. But you can’t ask them to play your song.
escoveitched fish, n.–A Caribbean preparation of fish, especially popular in Jamaica, in which whole fish or fillets are first marinated in vinegar, lime juice, and savory vegetables, and then grilled. The marinating is quite long–overnight, usually–with the result that the fish takes on some characteristics of ceviche. The fish is seasoned heavily with peppers before going on the grill, and cooked so hot that it gets crispy here and there. It’s very good. The unusual word “escoveitch” is a Jamaican English adaptation of the Spanish “escabache,” which means “pickled.”
Anise, Pennsylvania is a junction along Little Road in an area of rolling woods and farms, with big farmhouses. It’s forty-three miles northwest of Philadelphia. Drive two miles to Big Road, and you find the Hickory Park Restaurant, the nearest place to dine.
The Raspberries, the 1970s rock group, broke up today in 1974. . . Cheryl James, “Salt” of the hip-hop group Salt ‘n’ Pepa, was born today in 1969.
Words To Eat By
“It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance.”–Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself today in 1941.
Words To Drink By
“Drink to the point of hilarity.”–St. Thomas Aquinas.