As many of you well know, the advent of Christmas saw me embark on a much-anticipated European sojourn, but while the kitchen took a little respite and lay quiet, the eating most certainly did not. To recount all the highlights of my trip would take pages, and so in an attempt to keep this post relatively brief (*cough!*) I will try and remain food-centric, and direct those interested in viewing the additional holiday delights here.
My travels began in the West Highlands of Scotland, which were as beautiful as they were rugged and dramatic. It is a place that fundamentally resonates with the soul and I would move there in a heartbeat, should I ever figure out how to make a living from baking while residing in the middle of nowhere. We stayed with the most wonderful of hosts at Innie House Farm who, on top of letting us play with their delightful little farmhouse menagerie, treated us to a veritable bounty of local produce including venison and beef, salmon and trout, black pudding, haggis and the most incredible homemade tarts. A real treat, indeed.
Project Coffee and scones at Wellington Coffee, Edinburgh
But where Scotland's attraction lay in its raw beauty, Iceland was enchanting in the extreme. It's not every day you get to watch the sun rise over one of the world's better known and most unpronounceable volcanoes, swim in geothermal springs while it snows, take in waterfalls and geysirs, and wander across techtonic rifts, and they are experiences I shall not soon forget.
Sunrise over Eyjafjallajökull
The people of Reykjavik were stunning and decked out in some of the most exemplary knitwear and well-kempt beards I have ever seen. They were all so friendly and welcoming, and while we admittedly steered clear of some of their more traditional dishes (putrescent shark meat, anyone?), we did manage to stop by for Bæjarins beztu pylsur (the best hotdogs in town), the strawberry sorbet at Sjavargrillid was to die for, and their cinnamon scone/bun-type things are certainly some of the more delicious baked treats in existence.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur
Coffee at Kaffismidja
London, however, was where the eating was really at.
The ever-welcoming and generous coffee family were once again a delight, and many a tasty beverage was enjoyed.
There were visits to friends old and new,
Brown's of Brockley
and, of course, the most beautiful treasures in the known universe.
The infamous St John doughnut
But it wasn't all eating out. Thanks to my immeasurably wonderful hosts and some excellently sourced produce we enjoyed a traditional Christmas lunch of cockerel and all the trimmings, with a dessert of chocolate brownie for the sacrilegious, and a well inebriated plum pudding for the rest.
The fine produce was courtesy of Maltby street, a small and utterly delightful Southwark Borough market.
Excellent veg, cured meats, Kernel beers and Mons cheese. Wine at no. 40, Neal's Yard, Monmouth coffee, The Butchery and St John's bakery. I mean, what more could you possibly want or need?
There were so many new and wonderful things to take home, and with the addition of some exceptional baked goodies from the delectable e5 and the extraordinarily delicious offerings from London Borough of Jam, you could be forgiven for hardly heading outside to eat at all.
champagne rhubarb, Seville orange, savoy cabbage
old spot pork belly, slow roasted
But dine out we most certainly did, and while I could tell you about so many extraordinary things, I will settle on the big three.
No.1: Rochelle Canteen
An Arnold and Henderson venture nestled in a most charming bike shed playground, there was widgeon with beets (a duck, not a typo), braised squid, and the most delectable aioli I've ever had the pleasure of consuming.
No.2: Hawksmoor Seven Dials
A renowned steakhouse and cocktail bar, their butchered selection did not disappoint, and with the likes of beef dripping chips, Stilton hollandaise and half lobsters offered as sides, what couldn't possibly get any better all of a sudden did. And as for their marmalade pudding... oh be still my beating heart!
Sexy locale, sexy people, sexy food... This, my friends, is how it is done. Thoughtfully sourced good quality produce, simple combinations and stunning execution shared over a fine bottle of wine in the pleasurable company of like minds... pure, unadulterated bliss.
It was ever so nice to get away, to take a bit of time out to relax, and to share some of life's finer moments with the dearest of family and friends. The opportunity to feast on the talents of many was both exhilarating and inspiring, and I cannot think of a more refreshing and reinvigorating way to commence the New Year. Here's to what lies ahead...