Tag Archives: london

All The Single Lads, Put Your Hands Up

To paraphrase Beyonce, we’re calling all the single lads!

Rambling Restaurant is looking for some hot male action.  Why, you ask? Do we need a reason? Well, we’ve got one here:

‘Due to popular demand, on Thursday 3rd December & Friday 4th December we are holding a Lone Ramblers’ & Rambling Roses’ Singles Night at Rambling Restaurant!

It’s a 3-course dinner party of aphrodisiac foods & music. Lone Ramblers (gentlemen) and Rambling Roses (ladies) share tables and bring your own booze (no corkage fee). Lone Ramblers move tables every course to keep it lively. Who knows what might happen?!’

We’ve already sold all the Rambling Roses tickets, so it’s time to spread the word amongst your single male friends to get their asses in gear. An evening of great food, wine, music and a cozy room full of available women? Yes, Rambling Restaurant can make your wildest dreams come true.  According to Kanye West, it’s going to be ‘ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS OF ALL TIME.’


Lone Ramblers,  get your tickets here for the Thursday the 3rd  or here for the Friday the 4th.

We hope to see you there…but not in the outfits like JT and Andy Samberg in the above video, okay? Best to leave a little to the imagination.

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Rambling Restaurant Fun: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Thursday’s Rambling Restaurant was a boozy festival of wine tasting and matching canapes  – so many glasses of alcohol that I’m amazed I could stand up straight long enough to take any of these photos. We partnered with the lovely and charming Dan of Bibendum Wines to do a casual and relaxed evening event in our usual secret location. Dan ‘liberated’ a serious stock of bottles from the Bibendum stores for us – Champagne, Riesling, Chardonnay, Malbec, Chianti, and an excellent dessert wine – all matched with bite-size hor d’oeuvres such as the Zamorano cheese with quince jelly and persimmon, above. Below, tasting notes with parmesan crisps awaiting their toppings for the first round of canapes.

The full line-up of booze and bites below…

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Rambling Restaurant Fun, Part One: Summer Rolls and Phenomenal Pork

I’m in the midst of a serious cooking week. Wednesday and Thursday were both Rambling Restaurant nights at our secret location in Camden Town. Tomorrow is our London Thanksgiving party that started as a few friends and has somehow mushroomed to over 20 people and we still didn’t manage to fit everyone we wanted to invite! (Don’t worry though, we’re having a holiday party too and you’re all invited:) Sunday is another Rambling Restaurant, then I fly home to Boston to cook family Thanksgiving. Whew! I’m tired just typing that. Well, actually the soreness in my arms is from all the peeling, chopping, kneading, and rolling I’ve been doing tonight to make three pies and brine two turkeys. Yeeowwwch.

Tonight’s been a primarily solo affair (with Chris’s help on the awkward pouring-brine-into-a-plastic-bag-full-of-raw-turkey action), but luckily the Rambling Restaurants are always fun shared cooking evenings  full of laughter, chatter, catchup on recent nightly activities, dirty jokes, a broken glass or two (or three) and ample glasses of wine to fuel the cooking creativity. Over the last few nights, Chef foodrambler, Michelle, our newest member Sarah and I have served nine different dishes to over forty people. I’ll start with Wednesday’s meal, a classic and relaxing Rambling Restaurant event compared to the hustle and bustle of the next evening’s wine tasting.

Wednesday we served vegetarian Vietnamese summer rolls as a starter – lightly sauced cellophane noodles and an assortment of fresh veggies (carrots, scallions, cucumber, water chestnuts, cilantro) rolled tight in thin rice paper wrappers.  After dipping my fingers in hot water to soften about forty pancakes from their original hardened state, I had some crazyass prune fingers, let me tell you.

Dipped into a sauce of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy, garlic, scallions, chili and whatever else I put in that I can’t remember,  these bright little bites of freshness are a very happy way to start any meal. But it doesn’t get much better when it’s followed by an insanely good slow-roasted pork shoulder  – rubbed with spices and then whacked into the oven for about nine hours till it falls apart at the poke of a fork into the tenderest shreds of meat.  Mmmmmmmm….way to go foodrambler.

Scored into about centimeter thick strips with a sharp knife, the outer skin becomes the most amazing fatty, crispy, crunchy crackling that is frighteningly addictive. Served on cabbage and egg noodles with a pour of meaty gravy, this dish is pretty much unstoppable. We ended Wednesday night with an apple crumble with cream and a sprinkling of bittersweet caramel dust.  Unfortunately,  I always forget to take pictures of dessert. But don’t worry, I’ve got loads of pictures of the FoodRambler’s amazing canape creations from Thursday, coming up next!

Oh and while I’m posting Rambling Restaurant photos…

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Food Tours of London, One Highly Excitable Eater at a Time

London is, without a doubt, a world-class eating city. The first week I moved here, I found myself within walking distance of an organic grocery, Chinese dim sum, Turkish gözleme, Caribbean jerk, Nigerian stew, and more Vietnamese restaurants on one short block than can be found in some American cities.   You can find food in London from all cultures and countries, of all price ranges, as down-and-dirty as deep fried street food on the corner and as elevated as a Michelin-starred molecular gastronomextravaganza. Sure, there’s bad food to be found, as is the case anywhere.  But put in just the tiniest bit of effort and you’ll never have to waste stomach space on inferior edibles. And when it’s good, the food here is oh..so…orgasmically…amazingly…good.

So why does the myth still exist in the States that British food is horrible? I’ve made it my personal mission to introduce every single one of my visitors to the wonders of London eating.  I’ve been lucky enough to have over  a dozen friends and family stop by the Hackney Hostel since I moved here and the tourist itinerary doesn’t involve Westminster Abbey or the British Museum. No, the most important sights of the trip are Borough Market for  toasted cheese sandwiches, Broadway Market for cupcakes and Ghanaian food and mushroom risotto, Gwilym’s coffee cart at Columbia Road Flower Market, Tayyabs for lamb chop and curried baby pumpkin feasting, the Breakfast Club for bacon butties (and mini-discos), the Brick Lane Upmarket for octopus balls and dulce de leche filled churros…and I’ll stop now because i’m getting very hungry.  Thankfully, every single one of my visitors cares about food just about as much as I do, which is probably a main reason we’re friends in the first place.  I don’t waste time with non-excitable eaters.

My friend Lex is one of these people.  She left just last week, after five straight days of talking about food, venturing off to procure food, deciding what to eat, eating, digesting, and then talking about what to eat next. In other words, my kind of girl. Oh yeah, and we cooked Chinese food for 20 strangers in my living room.  But although I always have to show off my favorite eating spots, the best part about visitors is opportunities to try new and exciting markets, cafes, and restaurants.

One happy new find is the Bedales Wine Bar, tucked into a tiny storefront in Spitalfields Market. It’s easy to overlook with the sprawling chains like Wagamama, Giraffe, and Leon taking up massive real estate, but we ducked into this charming  little  spot to get out of the rain and were happily surprised by excellent glasses of wine, a bowl of fresh bread from St. John and a board teeming with multiple varieties of cheese, pickles, olives, and a piquant little bowl of ratatouille.

wine and cheese board in spitalfields market

Apparently you can purchase a bottle of wine and drink it there without the hefty restaurant markup…I’ll certainly return to prove that hypothesis (and eat more cheese…yum).

Another solid winner in our rapid-fire London food tour was the wooden-beamed, vintage-wallpapered, elk-skull-bedecked,  dreamy-design-geek-fantasy restaurant and bar The Elk in the Woods on Camden Passage in Islington. This miniscule  cobblestoned passageway is one of my favorite streets to show London visitors, both for its quaint historic charm and its abundance of tantalizing eateries.  We snacked on a potato and pancetta skillet with baked eggs, peppers, and tomatoes with toast…

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Tapas, Terracotta, and Tons of Tomato Sauce at Rambling Restaurant

Dining Room at Rambling Restaurant

A few weeks ago, Rambling Restaurant explored the world of tapas with enough food to feed a small Spanish village.  Chef foodrambler devised a wide-ranging, drool-inducing, and seemingly never-ending menu of tiny plates served in terracotta dishes, which give off an air of Spanish authenticity no matter what you put in there. That, and a flamboyant Spanish accent.  With a lisp. And castanets.

Kidding.  We kept the Spanish influence to the food. And of course the wine, which is why I have a bit of trouble recalling the menu. If I remember correctly, we served:

Fried Calamari with Capers and Black Pepper

Patatas Bravas (Oven Roasted Crispy Potatoes topped with a zesty tomato sauce)

Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Bechamel Sauce (whacked back in the oven for a deliciously browned top)

Albondigas (M is for Mmmm and Meatballs)

Honey Glazed Roasted Beets with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce)

All served with lots of crusty bread for your tomato sauce and garlicky oil dipping pleasure.

crusty bread for dipping at Rambling Restaurant

Followed by Chocolate and Orange Torte with Raspberry Sauce and Cream for dessert. I thought we might have stuffed our diners to the point of no return with the unstoppable onslaught of dishes, but the pudding plates came back wiped clean. A true testament to the power of oozy gooey (goozey?) chocolateyness.

This was our first meal at Rambling Restaurant with just the two of us covering the kitchen and the dining room, leaving very little time for taking photos or other important activities like breathing. Luckily a talented guest photographer was to be found amidst the piled plates and scattered breadcrumbs  – my friend Amit straight outta Brooklyn.  Amit and I, along with our other friend Dave, spent most of his time across the pond eating a swath through East London and capturing it all on film.  This post is basically an excuse to showcase his lovely photographs since I really have nothing useful to say.

We’ll end, as all meals should end, with empty plates and full bellies. No more calamari. Sad face. Come back next time!

No more calamari

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random london encounters over beet marinated salmon and coconut shrimp

london is an absolutely massive city. the current population of approximately 7.5 million is almost exactly 10 times the size of my former city of san francisco, practically a quaint seaside town in comparison.  these 7.5 million people richochet across 650 square miles, hurtling from the west end to the east end, from north of the river to south of the river, encountering hundreds or potentially thousands of new faces each day. you’d think it would be nearly impossible to randomly run into the same person over and over again, that the likelihood of your path crossing over another person’s london trajectory must be fairly small. and yet, how often might we see the same people over and over again without really noticing?

take, for example, my most coincidental of london acquaintances, patrice. patrice, on the right in the photo below, runs  sauce á part, a culinary company creating french-creole cuisine with pacific and mediterranean influences that caters, produces food events, and runs a stall at broadway market.

patrice from sauce apart

a few weekends ago, on a perfect sunny saturday of people-watching, canal-walking, vintage-browsing, and of course obsessive eating, i dragged a fresh-off-the-plane annie to broadway market just up the road as soon as she got to the house.  we stopped at patrice’s stall to chat and she asked how we knew each other. and all i could say was, it was just one of those random london encounters.  i first met patrice at his broadway market stall about 2 months ago with my friend dan. and by ‘met,’ i mean that he offered me a sample of sumptuous slow roasted pork and i accepted (obviously) but was too full from a face-stuffing borough market trip to purchase anything.  i told him i’d be back sometime with an empty stomach. and then we moved on.

later that night, after an extended journey all the way across london to the opening of the pavilion at the serpentine gallery in hyde park and back east, dan and i quite unexpectedly found ourselves at the final evening of the double club, a congolese street market themed pop-up restaurant/bar/dance club/art installation in a huge warehouse behind the angel tube station in islington.  waiting in line for drinks, i ran into patrice again, who somehow remembered me from our 3-minute encounter earlier in the day. we talked food, we talked markets, we talked global cuisine, we talked more food, and i promised to return to his stall again soon. it was a lovely discussion and such an odd encounter considering the series of steps it took for us to arrive at the double club and how many times we almost got derailed along the way. how often might this path-crossing occur unnoticed or unacknowledged?  it’s fascinating to think about all the different ways in which people’s lives intersect and how we might be completely unaware…

i always find it interesting to consider these trajectories. of course, being a bit of an obsessive eater, they often lead back to food. i didn’t see patrice again for about two months but a few weekends ago, fate crossed our paths to bestow upon me this gorgeously hued beet-marinated salmon, vibrant with color like the petals of a tropical flower.

beet marinated salmon

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an electrifying evening of rabbit and brandy snaps with rambling tongue

the transformed space at vulpes vulpes

welcome to rambling tongue at vulpes vulpes! last saturday, the underground restauranteurs of rambling restaurant and the poets of hammer & tongue played host to a warehouse full of adventurous diners in a spectacular artist space in hackney. there was rabbit stewed in cider. there were artichokes with homemade mayonnaise. there were brandy snaps stuffed with marscapone and cream and raspberries and crystallized violets. there was poetry and music and dancing and bottles and bottles and bottles of wine….

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an early morning food adventure at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market

unsurprisingly, it takes quite a lot of carrots to make roasted carrot dip for 100 strangers. same goes for the eggplant, red onion, and zucchini needed to make somewhere between 18 and 20 pans of roasted vegetable foccacia. rather than pay regular prices and lug massive bags home from the supermarket, our crew of rambling cooks  – synnove, michelle, and myself – decided it would be efficient, cost-effective, and most importantly, fun to make an early morning trip to the wholesale produce market at new covent garden.

bags of vegetables

despite what the name might suggest, new covent garden market is absolutely nowhere near regular covent garden. in fact, the market is located on the opposite side of the river in the vauxhall area which meant we would need to obtain some sort of vehicle for food and person transport. luckily, synnove’s boyfriend pete generously offered us the use of his car and even more impressively, his services as driver at the ungodly hour of 5am for our fruit and veg quest.

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a rambling feast of strangers at the treehouse gallery in regent’s park

theodore zeldin leading the feast of strangers

this last weekend i spent one of the most beautiful saturdays i can remember in a truly magical place – the treehouse gallery at regent’s park in london. this dreamy fantasy land, filled with the tallest of towering structures and the humblest of tree stump seats, played host to an open gathering of food and conversation called the feast of strangers. over 150 people showed up to share a meal and some of their most intimate thoughts at this community event organized by limina, a social enterprise dedicated to ‘creating transition spaces and events between the rural and urban’ through journeys, workshops, and other events.

synnove, ed, and the wonderful other people of limina were kind enough to invite rambling restaurant to prepare a feast for the feast. food for 150 in the middle of a park with no electricity? luckily, there’s nothing we like more than a challenge. after a 5am wholesale produce market trip, an evening carrot-chopping get-together,  a late night focaccia-making and wine-drinking party, and a morning put-everything-together-right-before-mealtime activity, we managed to put together a lovely spread of food for the park wanderers. here michelle puts together the information table for the food, all up for grabs by donation.

michelle and the rambling feast

the meal consisted of several dips and salads, a harissa lamb, and a truly massive amount of focaccia bread. here’s the roasted carrot and caraway dip topped with feta cheese, fresh mint, and a teepee seating structure:

roast carrot dip and treehouse installation

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the unexpected illumination of the rambling banqueteers

rambling banqueteers at the fifth plinth

following up on the last post about the oubliette arthouse and the fifth plinth, here’s the second half of our eating-as-performance installation: the unexpected illumination of the rambling banqueteers.  squeeeezed into the tiny above entryway were 11 intrepid diners facing a confused array of passers-by and a toasty warm mealtime surrounded by spotlights and burning candles. however, as reward for their bravery and endurance, these banqueteers were rewarded with quite the serious spread.

regard exhibit a: the whole salmon.

whole salmon for the rambling banquet Continue reading

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