Monthly Archives:

July 2010

Hyde Park

Enjoy some time away from the streets of London and head to Hyde Park.  Filled with 4,000 trees, a jumbo lake complete with the cutest quackers, and tons of historical monuments, Hyde Park is the perfect place for a stroll.

Stretching across 350 acres, Hyde Park is no small playground.  Equipped with a carousel, tennis courts, boat rentals, and tons of grassy fields to stretch your legs, Hyde Park is quite the public park.  If you get a chance to go, which you should if you’re ever in London, make sure to check out some of the historical sites, such as the Diana Fountain, a memorial for Princess Diana, or Kensington Palace, standing beautifully just at the edge of the park.

What I love most about Hyde Park is that despite being located in one of the most populated cities in the world, there are many spots in the park where it’s incredibly quiet.  As I lay in the grass enjoying my runner’s high, listening to the birds and staring at the tops of the trees, I feel like I’m the only person in the park.  Yet as I sit up and glance around, I notice a slightly entangled couple perched just a few trees away, a young woman propped up against a sycamore invested in a book, a man spread out in the grass just as I was, and a fairly sparse but continuous stream of walkers striding along the trail just a few feet away.  Surrounded by so many people, yet I feel as though the park is my own.  When I lay back down, my thoughts drift back to myself as I watch the swift London clouds flow quickly right on by.

It’s the perfect place for a picnic. Or a run, a hike, or a bike ride.  Jump in a pick-up soccer game or to read a book amidst greenery and gardens.  Whatever you decide to do, the space in Hyde Parks is yours to use. (Just remember to share and keep it clean!)

Tate Modern

London is filled with free museums brimming with historically and culturally rich displays.  One of these museums in Tate Modern, an abandoned power station located just north of Southwark that was turned into an art museum in the year 2000.

Tate Modern exhibits an extensive display of modern art, meaning art from 1900 onwards, gathered from around the world.  Comprising three massive floors filled with artistic pieces, Tate Modern separates its displays into four main categories revolved around the primary periods within the modern era:  Surrealism, Minimalism, Post-war innovations in abstraction and figuration, and the three associated movements of Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism.

Within the rooms and along the walls of Tate Modern, one can find works from some of the world’s most prominent artists, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, and Jackson Pollock.

Filled with room after room of modern and abstract works of art, Tate Modern is one of London’s most intriguing and discussion-provoking museums.

Henri Matisses's "The Snail" (1953)

Joan Miro's "Message from a Friend" (1964)

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (1979)

Hatoum's "Home" (1952)

John Latham's "Film Star" (1960)

Andy Warhol- Pop Art

Magnum Ice Cream Bars

Vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate.  It’s a duo that certainly doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.  Yet the Magnum uses this simple combination to create one of the best ice cream bars I’ve ever tasted.

Crunchy yet soft, dense chocolate encases the creamiest vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had on a wooden stick.  The Magnum bar comes in several varieties including dark chocolate, caramel and milk chocolate, white chocolate, almond and mint.  I’ve tried the dark chocolate and the classic milk chocolate, which both were incredibly delicious.  It’s a tough call between which bar is better, and I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed such a simple concept.

In 2009, Magnum launched a bar called the Magnum Temptation Chocolate, consisting of “rich chocolate ice cream enriched with sumptuous chocolate sauce plus an abundance of white Belgian chocolate chunks and brownie pieces all encased in dark Belgian chocolate made with 46% cocoa.”  Now that’s a bar I’m going to keep my eye out for.  The Magnum Temptation Caramel & Almonds doesn’t sound bad either– “Madagascan vanilla ice cream with Californian almond pieces smothered in dark Belgian chocolate and luscious swirls of smooth, soft caramel sauce all surrounded by a shell of thick milk chocolate.”

Magnum was launched in the UK in 1987 under the company of Unilever.  Since then, the ice cream bar has taken off with more than a whopping billion being sold last year.

Simple, but quality ingredients can often create some of the best food out there, and this is simply what the Magnum is:  Simple done well.

El Panzon Tacos

Intermittently for the past couple weeks, I’ve been following around this taco guy by the name of Grant Winters.  Winters runs El Panzon, a taco joint residing within Hootananny‘s in Brixton.  Cooking tacos since the age of 17 and claiming to have pioneered Mexican cuisine in the UK (along with Daddy Donkey, another taco restaurant), I was instantly intrigued by Winters.

As I’ve been following Winters around for an article I’m working on, I’ve been discovering a lot.  Like how Mexican food is fairly new to Londoners.

“Tacos were around [in London] before us, but they never really took off,” explains Winters.   “They were served primarily in Turkish-owned restaurants.  Horrendous Old El Paso tacos using spices you’d never even find in fucking Mexico,” illustrates Winters, referring to the packaged El Paso dried seasoning you can buy in the grocery store.  “It was wrong, never fresh, and turned people’s perceptions of Mexican food the wrong way.”

Winters started out giving away a lot of free sample to try and draw in customers, introducing and giving them a taste of real Mexican cuisine.  Pretty soon Winters was making an appearance on blogs around the area and started gaining a decent following.  “English don’t know what they’re eating at first, and when they try it they’re blown away.  They’ll come back for plate 3, 4, 5, 6…”

Not only is Winters a super friendly character with an interesting story to share, but he truly does whip up a killer taco.

“It’s the combination and freshness that’s key.  People just don’t put the ingredients together,” Winters explains.

80% of what Winters uses to create his Mexican food is fresh, with 85% of those ingredients coming from the local markets in Brixton.  Here’s how his menu works:  Step one, you choose your meal, picking from five different kinds of tacos or four kinds of burritos.  Step two, you choose your filling from a selection of beef, chicken, pork, chorizo, fish, king prawn, refritos, mushrooms, and vegetarian.  Step three is “How Hot?,” allowing you to pick from salsas ranging from Dead (pico de gallo) to “Don’t come to me crying!,” made from the Dorset Naga pepper, the hottest known chili in the world.

Last time I was at El Panzon’s, I ordered two vegetarian tacos and one fish taco.  Both were delicious.  The vegetarian taco consisted of pinto and red kidney beans immersed in a savory, slightly smoky mole sauce (made from chili peppers and chocolate) topped with freshly chopped cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, red onions, mixed greens, along with shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole in a warm corn tortilla.  The fish taco was similar, although a layer of lightly battered cod replaced the beans.  Both were a juicy, dripping mess that created an explosion of layered flavors perfectly melted together in my mouth.

Every Friday and Saturday night starting at 10:30, El Panzon heads outside and cooks up a stream of £1 tacos.  Certainly delicious, but not quite the same experience as the daytime/evening, slightly more expensive tacos.

Cool dude.  Great food.  It’s going to be a fun piece to write.

Hummingbird Bakery

With bakeries on practically every other block in many of the London neighborhoods, I had been eagerly anticipating my first visit to one.  On my stroll home Thursday to my temporary Kensington flat, I finally leaped into one of these cutesy bakeries to give it a good look around.  My eyes immediately jumped to the long line of colorfully displayed cupcakes, narrowing in on the tag inscribed with one of my all-time favorite duos, “Carrot Cake.”

With three golden pounds left in my pocket, I was sold.  Ring me up please handsome Italian cashier.

Walking out of Hummingbird Bakery with some spare change (35 pence to be exact), a wooden fork, and a sparkling, sweet snow frosted cupcake in my hand, I was a happy customer.

I became even happier once I took my first bite of that carrot cake cupcake.  Moist and sweet with faint hints of nutmeg, the cake was everything I had hoped for.  And while the smooth, cream cheese icing aroused a slight nostalgia of Philly, there was absolutely no other place I wanted to be in that moment than in Kensington eating that London-made cupcake.

In addition to its Kensington location, Hummingbird Bakery has two other shops located in Soho and Notting Hill, meaning I’ll probably wind up at one of the three for a second visit.  As a baker with a huge sweet tooth, I’d love to experience almost every bakery within London.  However, I have a feeling that with the various other cakes, cupcakes, and brownies that Hummingbird Bakery offers, I’ll probably soon be eating from a wooden fork once again.

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