Who are your favorite cooks and bakers to follow on Instagram? For the sake of brevity and self restraint, I’ve rounded up nine bakers whose work always makes me happy and inspired when I see them on Instagram…
I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a really embarrassing dinner date when traveling. When we visit new restaurants in DC, I’m not usually compelled to take pictures of the food. When traveling, however, I’m maybe a little too comfortable with the notion that I’ll never see 99.99% of the people at a restaurant ever again so I have no shame whipping out my phone and snapping pictures during meals.
As a result, you’ll find most of these pictures are grainy at best with a few hidden details that really make me smile – like the woman on the brochure in the picture below or the gentleman looking into the camera who I cropped out of the photo from Aphrodite. In short, I might be shameless about whipping out my phone but not so much so that I have a small photoshoot before diving into a meal.
The following restaurants are the meals we loved the most, the ones I couldn’t bother with a taking more than a picture or two during, quality be damned, because the food looked too good to wait any longer! I hope you have the chance to visit some of these spots should you find yourself in London. I can say without a doubt we will revisit more than one next time we’re in town.
Honest Burger – We stumbled into Honest Burger after my cookie class on our first full day in London and didn’t wait more than five minutes before nabbing a table at the Portobello Road location. Overhearing all the different languages around us was a complete thrill, and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t both surprised when fries showed up on the plate instead of potato chips.
Dishoom – This was our favorite meal of the whole trip! Get the black daal and chai tea and make sure you check out the kitchen in the lower level where you can see all of the naan lined up like soldiers waiting to go in the oven. Funnily enough, Kevin and I got lost on the way there, and thanks to reading Google Maps wrong, I lead us into a closed strip club. Thankfully we didn’t just hang our heads and turn back. I would have loved to eat here more than once if only we hadn’t visited on our last day in town.
Harrod’s Food Halls – Kevin said that because of the sheer opulence in every corner and the absence of windows disorienting you at every turn, Harrod’s feels like a casino. To which I have to say it was the most luxurious casino I’ve ever seen!
We visited for the sole purpose of visiting the Food Halls and could have spent hours exploring the meals in each themed room. Pictured above is the produce room (couldn’t you tell from the grapes in the chandelier? 😉 ), but we also explored the dessert room, the meat room, the chocolate room (I repeat: the chocolate room), the seafood room, and a whole list of places we didn’t even see, like the ice cream parlour!
We made the mistake of buying some pies before realizing there is no place to eat them, and some stands won’t heat up the food. So if you drop by, grab a snack on the go or take a sandwich to the park! I highly recommend the chocolate dipped candied oranges from the chocolate room.
Aphrodite – Recommended by our Airbnb host as her favorite local spot, Aphrodite’s friendly staff, dim lighting, and tables so close you might elbow your neighbor all make you feel like you’re dining with friends. We ordered the meat mezze, per our host’s recommendation, and there were eleven plates on our table at one point. Eleven! I’ve never felt more like a gluttonous American than during that meal.
One of the waiters even warned us to lay off the (five) dips so we’d have room for all four courses. If it sounds decadent, it’s because it was. The first course was cold appetizers (hummus, baba ganoush, labneh, etc.) followed by warm appetizers (portobello mushrooms and grilled haloumi atop tomatoes). As if that wasn’t enough, we then tried at least five different kinds of meats and fish and ended the meal with a salad. Everything we tried left me at a loss for words because it was so delicious, but I especially liked the part about the salad last!
Duck and Waffle – Duck and Waffle is the highest restaurant in the city on the fortieth floor. I’m having a hard time finding a more perfect phrase to describe it other than “gastro-club.” We rode a glass elevator straight to the top and some seriously strong beats welcomed us when the doors opened. Stylish youths sat all around the high tops and poufs, and very few of them were taking pictures of the city around us. One can only assume that dining decadently at the top of the city is a regular occurrence for them.
We both ordered the duck and waffle – crispy fried duck breast on a fluffy belgian waffle topped with a fried egg, although I think the bacon wrapped dates were the real star of the show! Don’t let the 40-stories up (I’m afraid of elevators, but the trip seemed to last less than a minute) or the warnings on their site about certain outfits required scare you away. The food was fun to try once while taking in the view, but I think next time we’ll end the day there with just a cocktail.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing more from our trip! We had so much fun exploring new places, meeting new people, and trying new foods. I’m already looking forward to the next adventure, if nothing else so I can justify another four course meal 😉
More from the trip:
This month, I’m trying Whole30 and eliminating alcohol, grains, legumes, sugar and dairy. This diet’s main intention is to help you make better, conscious decisions about what you put into your body and why. Like a reset button.
I thought I would see what Whole30 was all about first in September 2016, but it was more like Whole7. Determined to lose some weight before a friend’s wedding, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on everything I would need for the week. I made homemade granola bars! And a deconstructed egg roll which tasted exactly like what it was called. But a work trip to NYC derailed my very little progress. I couldn’t say no to NYC pizza and an entire platter of desserts! Or rather, I didn’t.
This time around I’m doing things differently. First, I have a support system. I plan on relying on a few friends who are doing it with me to hold me accountable. Second I read the book It Starts With Food to get a better idea of the program and the science behind it. Not only do I understand what I have to do, but I also know why the program has such strict rules. Finally, I bought the Whole30 cookbook which much to my surprise is more than olive oil drenched cardboard. Cutting out dairy, legumes, sugar and alcohol just doesn’t sound like it leaves a whole lot of room for fun, but thankfully the cookbook has a wide range of appealing items.
Here’s what’s on the menu this week.
Breakfast: Diced sweet potatoes with kale and fried eggs
Lunch: Sautéed chicken breast with roasted brussell sprouts and sweet potatoes
Dinner: Herb crusted salmon with roasted broccoli (Whole30 cookbook. Pictured above)
B: Potato pancakes with fried eggs
L: Leftover salmon and broccoli
D: Crock pot buffalo chicken with a sweet potato
B: Leftover potato pancakes with fried eggs
L: Leftover buffalo chicken with a sweet potato
D: My first hurdle. I have a girls night and it’s a taco/ nacho bar with margaritas. So I made my own sweet potato chips and guac which I plan to bring so I can partake without feeling like shredded lettuce is my only option.
I planned for the first three days only so I could then gauge whether I’m buying and cooking enough or too much and what items I should add or remove. When I first tried Whole30 last year, I experienced a searing headache for four days straight. A friend recommended I incorporate potatoes as often as I can at the start while my body adjusts to the lack of carbohydrates. That’s why most if not all of the meals listed above mention potatoes.
There is never a perfect time to cut out all the things I enjoy most, but we aren’t traveling at all this month so it feels like now or never. I eat a relatively healthy diet and live a relatively healthy lifestyle, so I find it hard to believe Whole30 will “change my life” as it so dramatically claims. But I am curious to see how eating better affects my overall wellbeing and most importantly whether it alleviates some of the frequent migraines I experience. Fingers crossed the donuts aren’t to blame!
The best part about living in a city with seasons is the in-between window when summer isn’t quite over and fall is just rolling in. I’m completely wooed by cooler evenings, and all of my griping between June and August about the hot weather is a thing of the past.
Unfortunately it takes me until Labor Day to realize I will actually miss everything I love about summer: reading by the pool, playing Scrabble in the park and staking out a patio whenever possible. A few days relaxing in DC this past weekend was exactly what I needed to soak up all the wonderful summer activities one last time and prepare for a new season just around the corner.
To welcome cool nights and sweatered days ahead of us, these homemade twix are the perfect (thought probably short-lived) companion. They are the stuff dreams are made of, the exact dessert you’ll want on the nights when the windows are open and the A/C is off. While they will test your patience as you wait for everything to cool, the end is so so worth it.
Homemade twix: Serves about 16; Time: 90 minutes
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups white flour
- 2/3 cup cubed butter
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Set out the butter and sweetened condensed milk (if you kept leftovers in your fridge like I did). This recipe comes together better when everything is room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 9×9 baking pan with a strip of parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the shortbread and caramel from the pan. The parchment paper functions as handles.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/4 cup of flour.
- Add 2/3 cup cubed butter with your hands until the butter is incorporated. The mixture will be crumbly and a little sticky.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the 9×9″ pan, and bake for 20 minutes – until the edges start to turn a golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let it cool completely. To cool the layers quicker, I pop mine in the freezer until cool to the touch.
- In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp. corn syrup for shine, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until everything is incorporated (you don’t want the mixture to burn, so keep stirring). Once boiling, stir for 5 more minutes, then remove from heat and stir for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust while still in the pan. This keeps the caramel on the top of the cookie.
- While that is cooling, melt the cup of chocolate chips with 1tbsp coconut oil in the microwave. Stir every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes. Don’t add more chocolate chips once you start melting everything. It will not melt evenly and your chocolate will be lumpy like mine is in the pictures.
- Once the caramel has hardened, remove the cookies and caramel from the pan and cut into strips. I cut 1-in cookies and then cut the whole square down the middle leaving me with about 16 twix.
- Pour chocolate on top and let it cool. Enjoy!
Before my trip this past April, I spent just one day in San Francisco almost eight years ago. Via a double decker bus tour, I crammed in all of the sights around town with my very best friend and her family. We saw the Painted Ladies, watched artists atop Twin Peaks, hiked Muir Woods and ate sourdough bread in Fisherman’s Wharf.
This time around, I visited for more than a week which lead to lots of exploration and many indulgences. I left this past April even more in love with the city than my first trip years ago! Below are highlights from my trip – everything I would highly recommend if only you were sitting right here next to me.
Craftsmen and Wolves – My dad and I both visited this coffee shop twice during our stay just for The Rebel Within – a savory muffin with a soft-boiled egg baked inside of it. I swear I’m still having dreams about it!
Basik Cafe – I had heard all about acai bowls, but this was my first time trying one. Go hungry! They’re the size of your head and will leave you full til lunch.
Jane Cafe – Killer salads in a fun cafe with chill vibes!
St. Frank Coffee – If I remember correctly, someone on Yelp referred to this as, “The Apple version of a coffee shop.” The baristas were incredibly friendly which distracted me long enough from panicking about spilling my latte all over their spotless counters.
Seed and Salt – A great place to stop for a quick bite or a full meal.
Tartine – My sister and I waited nearly thirty minutes for one of their world famous croissants. The bakery is pretty cramped, so in the future, I’d take our treats up the block to Dolores Park instead.
Union Street Papery – Hands down the best paper store I’ve ever visited. I was in the tiny shop for nearly an hour ogling every card! Before entering the store filled with party supplies, stationary and planners galore, you first walk through an archway, past a small garden with a pond and into the shop. Pretty sure I gasped out loud when I rounded the corner.
The DeYoung Museum – There was a touring Oscar de la Renta exhibit (pictured above) which took my breath away. Easily the youngest one there on a weekday afternoon, I loved hearing the commentary of the senior citizens around me. “Ooh, I’ll take that in a ten.” “Oh my, just look at that embroidery!” Their enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the incredible gowns was welcome company as all of our jaws kept hitting the floor. Go for the lookout deck on the top level, but don’t prioritize this museum over a sight you really have your heart set on.
Green Apple Books – My sister’s favorite used bookstore in the city! There were cookbooks galore, graphic novels and even small zines which combined the two. If only I had left more room in my suitcase, I guarantee I would have left with more titles in tow.
The Exploratorium – Filled with interactive exhibits about science, math and physics, this museum kept us busy throughout our entire visit! I recommend Adult Happy Hour from 6-10p.m. every Thursday when only adults are admitted. There’s so much to interact with you’ll be glad you’re not elbowing small tots out of the way because you’re excited about your own turn at each station.
Sutro Baths – A former swimming pool for San Franciscans, all that is left now are the ruins. Climb all around the structures where former pools existed and explore adjacent caves which have views of the ocean on the other side! Or, listen to more about the history from the podcast 99% Invisible.
Lands End – Near the end of Golden Gate Park (or at least what was the end for us) lies an incredible lookout of the Golden Gate Bridge complete with a rock maze and stunning views of the water. You’ll wonder why you took all of the paltry shots leading up to this point.
Big Sur – We drove past Big Sur on California One on a cloudy day, but I still had a blast! I can only imagine how beautiful these sights are on a bright, clear day.
Crissy Field – Crissy Field has got to be where they have photo shoots for REI and Lands End catalogs. Walk along the path and you’ll eventually encounter a small beach which leads right into the bay. I dare you to try not reenvisioning your savings going toward one of the adjacent waterfront properties. Stop by the Palace of Fine Arts nearby and take in the grand architecture (and maybe a swan or two if you’re lucky)!
Til next time, SF!
This was (truly!) the easiest recipe I have ever made in all twenty-four years of my existence.
D.C. was hit with more than two feet of snow in some pockets of the city this weekend, and baking was one of the only things keeping me sane. Unfortunately, my past self deemed a small loot of potatoes more important to lug home instead of ingredients for a more complicated bake. These muffins took just 10 minutes to whip up – a mere fraction of the duration of Snowzilla. I would’ve killed someone this time yesterday as the Cabin Fever set in if it meant having access to a kitchen like the ones in Great British Bake-Off – all the ingredients a girl could need!
Alas, all we’ve got are items for muffins*. At least Google pulled through and Food.com didn’t disappoint (although I was skeptical of the recipe’s legitimacy ’til the moment I bit into the first muffin). These guys are keepers: a fruit serving and a sprinkle of chocolate! What’s not to love?
- 3large bananas
- 1⁄2cup white sugar
- 1⁄3cup melted butter
- 1teaspoon baking soda
- 1teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1⁄2cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2teaspoon salt
- nuts (optional)
- chocolate chips (optional. if you don’t like fun.)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mash bananas.
- Add sugar and the slightly beaten egg.
- Stir in melted butter.
- Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Spoon into medium size muffin pan lined with paper cups.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
*Consider this my formal pledge to document more photos of the ~*baking process*~ next time. Sometimes you’re trying to beat the clock ’til Meet the Press comes on, and before you know it, everything’s already waiting nicely** in paper muffin cups for baking. Smh. Next time!
**Seriously – they’re that easy! Done before you know it!