Monthly Archives: June 2009

secret supper at rambling restaurant: the candlelit rooftop moroccan feast

sunset on the rooftop

hooray! yesterday marked the occasion of the rambling restaurant: round two, and i’m happy to say that the evening felt like a great success for two major reasons. first off all, it didn’t rain. that’s always helpful for a rooftop dinner in london with no backup plan. secondly and most importantly, no one fell off the roof and ended up badly injured or dead. VICTORY!

the menu for the moroccan supper

happily, everything seemed to work out perfectly even beyond the absence of inclement weather and hospital visits. the fabulous moroccan menu was planned and executed to perfection by chef foodrambler and michelle, while i concentrated my efforts on transforming an empty bethnal green rooftop into a exotic and colorful yet also comfortable and functional moroccan themed dining space.  i attacked a pile of assorted cushions, rugs, and blankets, raided michelle’s flat for decorative items, and took a last-minute trip to the columbia road flower market for a end-of-market deal on a stunning bouquet of english peonies. despite a few moments of panic that there wouldn’t be enough seats or spoons or rugs before guests arrived, all turned out beautifully just in time to welcome our first diners.

it’s amazing what colorful cloths over well-loved coffee tables and patterned pillows and wovern rugs on a barren rooftop can do to transform a  space  into a warm and luxurious place to lounge. our guests had a full view of east london’s wildly varied architectural styles, with huge rectangular modern monstrosities looming over quaint brick townhouses and their cute circular chimneys and the sky overhead created a gorgeous shifting panorama of depth and color as the evening went on. but most importantly…such good food!

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welcome to the rambling restaurant, secret supper extraordinare

plates of lavender ice cream

hellloooooooo homemade lavender ice cream! where did this lovely dessert come from? i’ve just recently gotten to participate in something very exciting in the food world: secret suppers! after attending the salad club secret supper a few weeks ago and making the acquaintance of the lovely foodrambler, i got to assist in the launching of her secret supper last sunday:  the rambling restaurant. my excitement knows no bounds.

soo…i don’t really get it. WTF is a secret supper?

secret suppers are essentially a fusion of a restaurant and a dinner party; it’s a meal served to curious and adventurous diners in someone’s home or another unexpected location. they’ve been in existence in san francisco for years and have recently been growing in popularity in london, as evidenced by this article from the london paper that namechecks rambling restaurant! i’m so happy to be involved in helping to get one off the ground, especially with such a talented chef as the miss foodrambler.

okay. i get the idea.  so what’s with the secret thing?

well, the suppers are secret because it’s sort of a shady concept to be running a restaurant out of the home without permits and health inspections and all that boring stuff. as a result, people generally pay by a suggested donation rather than an established fee for meals and service to escape all those pesky legal ramifications. in addition, it’s secret because the location usually isn’t released until soon before the meal, both to protect the people behind the supper but more so to keep things exciting. isn’t it always better to add a little intrigue and mystery to your meal?

sweet! any other thoughts about secret suppers? i’m fascinated…really.

i personally think the most interesting part is exploring the space between restaurant meals  and dinner parties. it’s certainly a novel experience on its own to be served a meal in someone’s living room and to eat the food of an unestablished but clearly passionate chef (you don’t slave over the stove for strangers unless you reaaaally enjoy cooking). however, i find it most fascinating when you can push the boundaries and bring something more than the restaurant experience for the people venturing out to eat. for example, we divided the fifteen diners into three tables, which meant that everyone sat with people they didn’t know before. if you’re going to a secret supper and just sit with the people you came with, in some senses the social experience is as limited as going to a restaurant. when you encourage interaction with other diners, all of whom have taken the same leap of faith to eat unknown food with mysterious people in a surprising location, it adds an entire new element of community and interaction to the eating experience. below you see some perfect strangers  who will soon be dining companions…

diners at rambling restaurant

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a brief interlude of cupcake glorification: violet cupcakes at broadway market are lovely bites of heaven

cupcake closeups

this  post is all about the best cupcakes i’ve had so far in london. i took kellin to visit the adorable and wonderful broadway market during her last hour in london before returning to italy. stuffed from our borough market visit, we brokenheartedly turned down wild mushroom risotto, ghanaian food, and roast hog with crackling sandwiches. but we decided to treat ourselves to ONE mini cupcake because they were so ridiculously cute, and obviously brownie mountains and fresh strawberries with jersey cream were not quite enough dessert for the morning.

so we stopped at the happy stall of violet cakes and bought the enticing rhubarb and rosewater mini cupcake, a pale  pink and perfectly formed little turkish dome of dessert.  it was, quite honestly, ethereally delicious. so light and smooth yet so intensely flavored, like having the essence of rose petals in your mouth. such a tiny bite yet such a concentrated burst of taste! we promptly returned and bought another.

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a trip to borough market with kellin for english strawberries and cream, english scallops, and yes, english muffins.

kent strawberries with jersey cream

local and seasonal kent strawberries with jersey cream? victory for england! this stellar dessert of the first crop of tiny sweet strawberries with a gloppy dollop of thick cream in a cone comes straight from my favorite saturday morning activity, the always amazing borough market.  since kellin is a fellow seriously appreciative eater, we went there on her last day in london and indulged in a gluttonous orgy of market eating.

we started off the visit by going straight for the toasted cheese sandwiches, but i’ve obsessed about those enough. besides, i’ve got so many new things to share.  like…fresh scallops with bacon from shell seekers!

scallops and bacon

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just in case you obtain a large number of cauliflower leaves, i now present a soy, garlic, and onion roasting recipe

so much to post! so little time! i’ve got about eight posts full of deliciousness on the way – some promised videos of donuts and japanese pancakes, a secret supper, more market visits, and the world’s hottest hamburger – so get excited. but alas, bed and anna karenina are calling at the moment, so i’ll leave you with the perfect recipe should you ever find yourself in possession of an abundance of cauliflower leaves. you never know…

it’s originally from the fabulous eat.drink.better, so go read it there and support sustainable eating! yum!

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Until I started receiving local British vegetables through my organic veg box scheme, I had only ever purchased cauliflower as a large white vegetable swaddled in crinkly translucent plastic at the supermarket.  However, this week’s veg bag came with a huge green lump about the size and weight of a dodgeball. At first, I thought it was some sort of unknown English cabbage. However, upon peeling away a few of the thick, dusky green leaves, I discovered a tiny cauliflower the size of my fist nestled amongst the paler, thinner stalks.  I’ve never even seen so many cauliflower leaves before, much less a version of the vegetable that consisted of about 80% leaf and 20% flower.

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in which kell and i discover paella, gingerbread men, and an impressive pair of sausages.

besides creating breadroom bondage scenes, kell and i have been eating our way around london over the past few days and i’ve got lots of photos coming. here she enjoys her first sausage and egg bap. apparently size does matter at the breakfast club in hoxton.

kell and the sausages

we also had an incredible paella bought off the street corner on our way to see a fantastic and hilarious production of As You Like It at the Globe, an open-air theatre on the Thames recreated as it was in Shakespearean times. you even get to stand in the yard like the peasants did back in the day.

paella

no trip to london is complete without some serious market visiting, so i’ve got borough and broadway market posts coming up. until then, my favorite food photo of the week: the emotionally distressed gingerbread man.

unhappy gingerbreadman

is he in danger of being bitten by the vampire-esque gingerbread man behind him? maybe he’s just afraid of losing his head. in my mouth. mmm….

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it’s literally food porn: a breadman competition, a bedroom scene and a fiery breadperson sacrifice

you know you’ve just spent one of the most bizarrely amusing and creatively satisfying evenings of your life when the following quotes come out of the kitchen:

1. ‘that looks like f*cking George Washington.”

2. “you better be scared, b*tch!”

3. “there’s a fine line between pleasure, pain, and fiery human sacrifice.”

yes, it’s been quite an entertaining evening. one of my bestest friends kellin is visiting from florence, which means nonstop entertainment of all kinds. however, i think we may have topped our own personal most-ridiculous-night-ever by entering ourselves in the breadman competition. assuming you’ve never heard of the breadman competition, i will explain it to you.

breadman holding breadman

traipsing around soho today post-dumpling fest, we stopped by a bread and pastry cart to drool over the chocolate bears and the tomato focaccia and ended up trading italian slang with the funny british guy running the stall. upon further discussion, he invited us to compete in the breadman competition. regard live breadman holding not-live breadman to the right.

the breadman competition involves: 1) getting a breadman (not the live one). 2) taking a picture of said breadman. 3) posting the photo on the facebook page. for this, you get cake! which would really be enough reason for us, but the whole idea  just fired up our creative juices and stoked our competitive fires. you ain’t NEVER gonna see a breadman photo  like our breadman photo.

to explain ourselves just a bit, i’m pretty sure that kell and i were visually influenced by the predominant type of store in the soho neighborhood. in case you’ve never been there, one particularly representative establishment is the aptly titled, no-imagination-necessary ‘trashy lingerie.’ with that information in mind, you may not be surprised that we decided to do a ‘bedroom scene.’ yes, it’s quite literally food porn.

don’t worry, it’s not graphic (all naughty bits have been covered up), but it may not be suitable for those underage. so if you’re not yet legal in the state of alabama, or if you’re my mother or any other family member of an older generation, or if  you don’t approve of consensual bedroom activities as practiced by two willing and eager bread products, you probably shouldn’t click below. on the other hand, if you’re interested in breadperson bondage….

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Organic or Local? Eat Both with this Apple Blueberry Honey Yogurt Ginger Tart

since moving to London, it’s been a bit challenging finding time to cook and furnish a kitchen while also trying to launch a business, not get hit by buses driving on the lefthand side of the street, and calculate military time (you’d think i’d be decent at subtraction having made it through the second grade, but hey, we can’t all be perfect). i still don’t own any measuring cups or baking tins and it also took me about twenty minutes to figure out how to turn on the stove. however, to prove i do actually cook and hopefully have some marginally useful things to say here, i’ve re-posted an article i originally wrote for eat.drink.better, a blog about sustainable eating and food production. this tart is made of tasty organic and local ingredients and can also be made dairy-free. woohoo! enjoy.

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Grocery shopping can be complicated when you’re trying to make ethical choices. You’re faced with a lot of difficult questions: Is it better to buy the organically grown blueberries trucked across the country from California or the conventionally grown apples from a local farm in Western Massachusetts? In my case, the more vexing question is ‘Why did you freaking move away from the organic AND local food paradise of San Francisco in the first place? But I digress.

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