Up in that east London business

Saturday mornings are just the best, aren’t they? I complained a lot that this week was a struggle but the weekend more than made up for it. Kicking it off with a crazy karaoke dance party. Much too many cocktails, that I did not make and have no idea what was in them, were thrown back, songs sung horribly and lots of laughing. Someone I haven’t seen in a little bit reminded me that I was one of their closest friends and not forgotten at all.

This afternoon was catching up with one of my oldest and dearest friends at wonderful Broadway Market. I’d love to have better photos but my silly little Android is no good at all. I’m saving for a magical SLR.

This is me on the Frocks Afloat boat, which is an interesting little endeavour. Only in London can you pull up on the canal and sell vintage clothes out of your houseboat.


Social Feed Van

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending an outdoor event from the chaps behind The Social Feed Van. Like the underground restaurant phenomenon but with a difference, these guys host dinners for a bunch of strangers at different locations around the city. They visit independent restaurants and bars with an entourage of new friends from the Internet. Today’s event was a collaboration with the Vancouver Farmer’s Market, so all the ingredients were sourced from the traders and farmer stalls.

I have been to community dinners before, but this event featured the highest quality and most generous dishes I’ve had. Impressive plates of pizza, pulled pork tacos, sausages and lemon tarts.

My favourite course, the cheese plate and accompanying chutney and sauce dishes. This particular dip from Dohm was so incredible, I wanted to marry it and have its delicious children.

The lovely Colene and I.

Chocolate brownies. Mine are better.

Lilac macaroons. Sensational.

I was told tonight, ‘you really are something’. I think I may have been on crazy form with the jokes and the teases.

This city is a village

Life can be serendipitous sometimes or Vancouver can just be small, I can’t decide. On my way home from downtown tonight, I had plans to sit in front of my laptop and apartment hunt, but I bumped into Rick C. This has happened before and he always looks surprised, he forgets we live in a village. He was off to a dinner tweet up with a bunch of people, including one of my favourite ladies Colene. And so I went too and happily got to bump into other people I know and meet some new faces – some I was already following but had never met. The restaurant confused us at first, a lot of African stuff on the walls but Asian food on the plates? It was a restaurant serving two ethnicities that shares space, Malaysian and Ethiopian, Malayopian.

Tonight was also the night of the Gastown Music Festival. I cannot believe I was planning on going home. The streets were full of musicians and bands, some bluesy and awesome, and some 1990s thrash rock.

I always love to see Gastown sparkle. Look at all these people, where are these folks usually? They must have bussed them in from other cities.

I know, the writing and photography I’m posting is worse than ever. Can you believe people pay me to write words? Hopefully I will be able to get some clarity to write something good soon. Actual thoughts, instead of I went here and then I went there. Ann and Barry had an ice cream and then Barry went home. Ann was sad because Barry is such a cheat date… Honestly, I don’t even know.

Dive Bars, the Narnia of drinking

London has been trying to get the speakeasy and dive bar scene going over the past year or so, but it is all a bit yuppy and expensive. Not really so hidden and hard to find. My American friends have snorted derision on our attempts to be divey and dirty, saying it will never compare with what they have back home. Turns out they are right and we should stick to what we do best; gin cocktails, cucumber sandwiches and sarcasm.

Tonight I had plans to meet the fabulous Colene and she suggested the Narrow Lounge. Being a newb, I dutifully looked it up on the repository of all information, Yelp. Good thing I did, because walking up the dodgy part of Main Street, thinking Google Maps is having a laugh again would not have been much fun. So I was more amused than surprised to see this was the entrance.

A hipster walks into a club that you’ve never heard of before.

If you squint, you can see that rusty sign reads Narrows. The hipsters, they love a bit of intrigue, don’t they?

Don’t be alarmed, probably no-one is going to kill you here. The funny thing is, at the bar next to me was a couple clearly on a first date (internet hookup?). Nice choice, buddy. She is never calling you again.

But this place is very cool, very dirty and divey. They have moose antlers on the wall, some kind of stuffed bear head and you can dance on the bar, if you wish. If you are brave enough to eat here, they serve warm pretzels, their Mac and Cheese is famed and I want to come back for the peanut butter pie. (Ahem, and some bar dancing).

No wet food

I had ramen today for the second time in my life. It’s a bit weird, ramen, isn’t it? I’ve never been able to get onboard the ramen train. And I have boarded some unlikely food trains, oysters, raw fish, cashew nut cheese, vegetarian spare ribs. But I’ve never ‘gotten’ the ramen thing, especially when they add fried food to it. Gyoza or tempura on top of ramen? But it gets all wet, the madness! I ate this at a very mediocre sushi place near my office, turns out that while they make crap rolls, they make okay ramen. Although who the hell am I to be passing judgement on ramen?

I can’t deny it’s a comfort food, especially in this endless winter we are living in. But it takes so damn long to eat, I gave up halfway through. I guess I need ramen eating tips. Or a fork.

Homesick again, really?

When I first moved to London when I was 20, I used to go and stand in Marks & Spencers because it reminded me of my mother and she is home to me. Marks & Spencers reminds me of home, I realise that makes me weird. But that place is so comforting.

When I got older, London became home to me and it is that which my soul misses. I don’t know if it is this week’s incessant rain or I just haven’t been spending enough time around friends, but I am homesick and I miss the familiar. The trouble is that nothing is familiar here and for some reason I feel it most through food. The supermarkets are different and the food is different, I can never get what I really want. I tell you, an over reliance on Marks & Spencers is like a crack addiction.

This sign, this place.

Other things I miss, there would be a thousand but I have to stop somewhere. 

Scoop hazelnut gelato, Slim Jim’s Liquor Store – a seat at the bar and a laugh with Eamon, The V&A, Liberty, Movies at the Prince Charles, Walking the South Bank with someone special. Profiteroles. Croissants, really Canada, they aren’t that hard to make! Gallipoli on Upper Street, you know which one.

Raclette at Borough Market, Neal’s Yard Dairy, The tortellini at Giant Robot, Sexy Sunday daiquiris and guac at La Perla, Covent Garden, Tofu salad and a whole salted fish at Mien Tay Vietnamese on Kingsland Road, Pret’s Scrambled Egg and Roasted Tomato breakfast baguette. The walk from Highbury and Islington station to Angel station. Shoving on the tube, you gotta be kidding? Getting on the tube in full on fancy dress costume, oh hello Snow White! Hijinks in Hoxton Square late at night.

Heart skipping a beat on the dancefloor at Electricity Showroom. Marks and Spencers knickers. Dorothy Perkins shoes. The crazy homeless man with the fat ginger cat on a leash outside Angel tube. Stealing kisses on the DLR! The peanut buns stall in Chinatown. Brick Lane sample sales. Blaming it on the boogie. Crumpets. Rashers. Brown bread. People who wear floral. Naan bread. The Beatroot Cafe. St John’s vanilla donut.

These shoes

The canals. Knowing where I am going when I get on the bus. Actual signage on the streets. Cocktails and fried tofu at The Drunken Monkey, Shoreditch. Berwick Street, Monica Gems, I practically grew up on that street. Getting on the Piccadilly Line at Heathrow.

You and you and you and you.

Family Dinner

Some days I am just terrible at dealing with life and people. Yesterday was one of those days, so I just baked for Ainsley’s boiled dinner at the Mansion. A cross between an Irish and an Italian boiled dinner, the mostarda made it Italiano. Obviously, as I’ve mentioned here before, I am a very nervous cook. The result of too many people telling me I’ve done it wrong and the times I’ve cocked up an omelette. Seriously, an omlette, who messes that up? But everyone was very sweet and complimentary about my efforts, focaccia and cheesecake brownies. Next time, it will have to be Irish soda bread.

Ainsley is a great cook and here is his brisket and boiled veg. Definitely felt like being back at home while eating this, the meat was incredibly tender and accentuated beautifully with the citrusy mostarda (below).

No time spent at the Mansion would be complete without the hookah coming out.

Tyler is definitely a pro at smoke rings, since I can’t even inhale, I am not.