London: food + drink in Berkshire Co.

Bracknell

The Yorkshire Rose — We weren’t terribly hungry after a substantial Sunday roast lunch, so we were drawn by the options of small plates. Not too busy on a Sunday night with just two other tables in the back room. I opted for the small mussels appetizer and the small carbonara – more than enough food! Thankfully Eric ordered the small risotto because he barely finished it. Our evening was capped off by an exciting birthday song in which a candle the celebrating party brought to the restaurant exploded into a cloud of confetti! Overall, the staff was very friendly, the food was good and I would return here if we found ourselves back in Bracknell.

Reading

The Botanist — We met Eric’s co-workers here for a quick drink before dinner. I had a large glass of pinot noir and Eric opted for the “Yule Fuel” ale on draught. The food coming out of the kitchen looked good as did their curated selection of specialty cocktails.
House of Flavors — The very first time I have ever seen Scottish salmon curry on a menu, so of course I had to try it. Not disappointing! Medium spice and the perfectly cooked salmon was delicious, pairing nicely with a glass of Indian rose. Eric opted for the sizzling chicken laziz, which was a nice medium spice as well.

Wokingham

Cote Brasserie — We opted for this French bistro on Tuesday night and the whole experience was very good. Eric loved his starter of warm goat cheese, apples and mixed greens, and followed that with a delicious pounded flat steak and fries. My French Onion soup was better with the addition of salt and after letting it cool down for about ten minutes (seriously, why do restaurants serve soup so hot?!?) My steak tartare was good, I liked that the egg was mixed in but there were WAY too many chopped onions and the flavor became overwhelming. The chocolate cheesecake-like dessert was also on par with Eric’s meal – delicious.

Cote Brasserie  Cote Brasserie

Winkfield

The White Hart —  a cozy local place a half mile from our hotel, I stopped in for a quick lunch of a brie and bacon sandwich that was completely worth the 6£ price tag. Paired with a half pint of red ale and my Kindle, it was a lovely way to spend an hour outside of the hotel room. Two women with one fluffy white dog were relaxing in front of the fire after splitting a bottle of white wine. Based on our drive by on Wednesday evening, trivia night also seemed popular!

The White Hart

Duke of Edinburgh — We were in the mood for pub food, perhaps a meat pie, so we opted for the Duke of Edinburgh. Located down a narrow lane, it had a cozy vibe from the start. Eric was not disappointed with his steak and ale pie (one of the best he’s had!) and my liver pate was also great (the onion relish was amazing). We each had a pint of one of the cask ales that was malty with a bit of a dunkelweizen banana character.

Duke of Edinburgh

enjoying a pint @Duke of Edinburgh  steak and ale pie @ Duke of Edinburgh

London: Imperial War Museum, a Polish Kitchen + the death of my phone

Our flight landed early at Heathrow and because we have done this trip over a dozen times it took us no time at all to get to our hotel in Earl’s Court. As it was Saturday morning there were (unsurprisingly) no rooms available at 8am. So we dropped off our luggage and headed out in search of coffee (hot cocoa for Eric) and to waste an hour before the Imperial War Museum opened at 10am.

Chelsea stadium

Brompton Cemetery  Chelsea doorway

After grabbing two almond croissants at an Elephant & Castle Tesco, we walked over to the museum. The collection of war vehicles (tanks, SUVs, planes), bombs, and paraphernalia was impressive and the entire floor dedicated to the Holocaust with videos of survivors playing was incredibly moving. Given our post-flight haze we started to run out of energy before the WW2 display, so those artifacts warrant a future visit.

main hall @ Imperial War Museum  war planes @ Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum

All that mental energy was replenished by a trip to Mamuśka, a Polish restaurant near the metro station. We split an amber ale, a small order of potato, cheese and onion pierogies (sprinkled with sour cream and crispy bacon), smalec (creamy pate served with white bread), and pork gulasz with fried chips. Everything was delicious. The atmosphere in relaxed with mostly family style seating and a few 2- and 4-top tables.

Polish tastiness

Mamuska

Between returning to our now-available room for a quick nap and heading out for dinner, my phone died. It restarted suddenly and then proceeded to get caught in an endless bootloop, restarting but never getting past the main ‘Google’ screen. We tried every trick we could find online but nothing worked. After contacting GoogleFi support and discovering the manufacturer’s warranty was extended for the Nexux 5X phones because of this exact issue (!!!) we realized our only solution was to ship my phone back to LG for repairs. Unfortunately, I had JUST landed in the UK for the ten-day trip, so that meant no phone for this trip and up to two weeks after I got home.

To get our minds off of this annoyance, we headed out to dinner at Rocca, an Italian restaurant that Eric had visited on his last trip. We had called ahead but the hostess wouldn’t take a reservation for two and told us just to come in. So we did and we were luckily seated straight away in the very back of the restaurant. It was pretty noisy but the service was quick and efficient, if not a little abrupt. I ordered a glass of prosecco and Eric a sauvignon doc (white) and they came out quickly. My funghi pizza was pretty good with a nice crust, but a bit on the bland side. Eric enjoyed his rabbit ragu pappardelle. Reasonable prices on the food and wine, I would return but try another dish.

We decided to try and get into Terroirs for a nightcap and were surprised to find two seats along the bar. The place eventually emptied out and the post-theatre rush we were expecting never occurred on this particular Saturday night.  This meant we had a bit more attention from the wait staff and were able to get tastings of wines before choosing. Eric choose a Slovenian white from Burja Estate and I had a Vini Viti Vinci pinot noir from Burgundy (France). Eric’s second choice was an Les Vins Pirouettes Alsatian white and mine was an unusual prosecco from Casa Belfi. All the pours are 125ml, unlike many other places where the small is 175ml and the large is 250ml! Definitely a good place to expand our wine experiences and try unusual varietals.

liquers @ Terrior

Shanghai 2017: Nanxing

After a leisurely breakfast, we spent a couple of hours Friday morning on FaceTime with family and friends wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving back in the States (where it was still Thursday evening).

After our calls home we took the subway northwest to Nanxing, known for its xiaolongbao street and Guyi Gardens. We started with lunch at Fengji Xiaolongguan, and ordering was an experience without any knowledge of Chinese. Thank goodness we knew the word ‘xiaolongbao’ so that worked, but I also ended up ordering us a soup without realizing it. Soup came out first and I was confused (and a little disappointed) but the dumplings quickly followed so all was well! Everything was tasty (even though Eric had to fish all the cilantro out of his soup). And cheap. We were both stuffed for under $6 USD.

xiaolongbao on Guyiyuan Rd

enjoying the soup dumplings

From our lunch place it was a short walk to the north entrance. After paying a modest 12rmb entry fee we entered a peaceful garden with gorgeous stone pathways, water features, pagodas and waterfalls. Like many parks in Shanghai, there were also lots of groups of old men playing cards and old women chatting on benches. We spent about 1.5 hours exploring before heading back to the hotel.

Guyi Garden map

Guyi Garden  Guyi Garden

Guyi Garden

Guyi Garden

After a quick recharge (for us and our phones), we took the subway to Jackie’s Beer Nest 2 located in the basement of the Hamburg House. Two beers for each of us – strong stouts for me, and a sour ale for Eric after his smoked beer kicked the keg after half a pint. The fried wontons made for an excellent snack with our beers.

tasty dumplings @ Jackie's Beer Nest 2

Jackie's Beer Nest 2

Curious to try a whisky bar, we walked over to MaltFun but found the place shuttered at 9pm on a Friday night with no explanation. Oh well.

Pacific NW: Woodinville Wineries and hanging with friends

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we met my friend Barb (from high school) & her husband, Jon at Davenport Cellars at noon. Phil was our wine pourer and he definitely opened up a bit when we started talking about travel and discovered we both love one of the same wineries in
the Willamette Valley (Arborbrook!).

outtake of a photo with a friend from high schoolOur next stop was a two minute walk away – J&A Winery, one of our favorites from our visit two years ago. We got there just as Dick (the winemaker) was opening the doors and hung out for a bit while he got the tasting room ready. Once again, our tasting here was memorable. Eric loved nearly all of the whites and while I was less excited about the Bourdeaux-style blends, the rose and tempranillo were delicious. We put together a case and had him package it up for us in a shipper. If we lived near this winery it would be dangerous!

At this point we needed food, so we all decided on a burger place, Tipsy Cow. Great choice! Happy hour was from 3-6pm which meant $2 off selected bar snacks. I had the Silver City Fat Scotch Ale and Eric ordered the Crooked Belgian Wit from Two Beers Brewing. To eat, we split
the Pig Tails (panko-breaded pork shoulder, fried and served with BBQ Sauce), and an order of plain and truffle fries. Everything was filling (the fry plate was enormous) and tasty.

We had time for one more beer before meeting another set of friends for dinner, so we stopped at Hellbent Brewing. My winter ale was just okay but Eric liked the guest tap sour. The space is nice with an industrial feel and lots of seating along with comfy couches.

Parting ways with Barb & Jon, we met our friend’s Mark and Marie at their house in Shoreline. They had ordered take-out pizza, so dinner was a relaxed affair. Eric caught up with the adults while I learned how to play Pokemon with the kids. :)

Pacific NW: Willamette Valley and drive to Seattle

Stopped in at the Sweet Oregon Berry Co again for another round of raspberry and pumpkin hand pies, then headed to our old favorite Arborbrook Vineyards. Per usual, the tasting here was good, it’s really too bad the shipping is so expensive (why we chose to leave the wine club a few years back). We picked up two bottles of the Heritage Cuvee (one as a gift) and a bottle of the Guadalupe Pinot Gris, which waived our
$10 tasting fee.

more yellow vines

Arborbrook tasting room

At this point it was nearly noon, so we began our drive back to Seattle. Our friends live in South Seattle, so we met them at their place, then drove a short way to Franklin Park to let their girls run around and wear off some energy while the adults chatted. It was a beautiful fall afternoon so lots of people had the same idea!

sneak peek of downtown from Jefferson Park

Dinner was at Super Six, a Hawaiian/Pan-Asian restaurant. Thankfully we had reservations as they were busy on a Saturday night! My pork ragu noodles were very good and Eric’s Asian salad with Huli-huli chicken was also delicious. The malasada donuts for dessert were good but overpriced – $4 but you had to pay $1.50 extra to get them filled with a tiny bit of cream? The fresh chocolate chip cookie with sea salt was amazing, definitely recommended. Most importantly, we were glad to catch up with our friends.

After bidding everyone good night we drove up to Redmond to check into our hotel, relaxing with more episodes of Stranger Things 2.

Pacific NW: Willamette Valley, day 2

We met our friend from college, Nate Wall, at Day Wines for a tasting and tour. Got to try a bunch of different wines and have a great conversation about wine making methods.

orange wine @ Day Camp  gourds!

Our next destination was Sweet Oregon Berry Co, for their delicious hand pies. Eric got raspberry and I tried the seasonal pumpkin hand pie, and both were great. Our timing was good too, as this was the last weekend they would be open for the season!

Re-fortified we continued to Carlton to visit Cana’s Feast, a winery that had caught our eye on the 2016 trip with some unusual white and red varietals. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any whites open for tasting, only one rose and several reds. My favorites were the “Rhone” style wines, the Syrah and Joie de Vivre. Eric wound up buying a bottle of the Arneis white we wanted to try as well. As a side note, they have a big patio that is quite inviting.

Cana's Feast tasting room

On our way to the Argyle tasting, we passed by the new Dominio IV tasting room and stopped in to search out my favorite tempranillo, the Technicolor Bat. They didn’t have any in stock but we picked up a 2015 Viognier and a 2011 Tempranillo that was drinking well, according to the wine manager.

The last stop of the day was our members tasting at Argyle.  We were greeted at the door with a sparkling rose and once the group was assembled, our host Tim led to the Spirit House tasting room where we tried the 2014 Argyle Vintage Brut, 2007 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut (Eric’s fave), 2015 Argyle Riesling Spirithouse, 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse and the 2015 Argyle Pinot Noir Cowhouse. After the tasting we got a tour of the facilities, including the RD bubbles and magnums. All in all, a great member’s tasting experience and awesome perk for being a wine club member.

member's tasting @ Argyle

Argyle Winery

We headed back to the hotel room and watched the sunset with a glass of wine on the back lawn before heading to Dundee Bistro for dinner. I enjoyed a half dozen of oysters and an olive pizza with a De Ponte Melon de Borgonoune, while Eric ordered the butter lettuce salad and a margherita pizza alongside an apricot ale.

After another full day we went back to the room to watch Stranger Things season 2. :)

Paris 2017: food & drink

Thursday

Lunch @ Le Petit Marche –  Having just landed and dropped off our bags we needed lunch, quickly! Even at 1:30p this restaurant was packed, but they managed to squeeze us into a small table. Unfortunately they were out of the Ravioles de Royan, so I ordered the Salade China, a chopped salad with lots of soy/sesame chicken, carrots and lots of Asian-inspired ingredients that was quite good. Meanwhile Leandra ordered a strange take on steak tartare with asian-influenced spices that was lightly grilled on the top and bottom. She enjoyed it as well.

lunch @ Le Petit Marché

Dinner @ Bistrot L’Oulette – After wandering through d’Orsay we were quite ready for dinner. My red wine braised beef stew was amazing, as was Leandra’s cassoulet (although it took about 10 minutes for hers to cool down enough so she could eat it). We split a bottle of red wine that went great with our meals but the most memorable part was the chocolate tart. Flaky and light, absolutely delicious.

chocolate tart @  Bistrot de l’Oulette

Cocktails @ Little Red Door – on the advice of our friends Anna and Loren, we walked the .7 mile to this hidden cocktail bar. On arrival the doorman had us wait until seats were ready before letting us in, probably 10ish minutes. Once seated we perused the suggested cocktail list which were each inspired by architecture styles. I choose the Functionalism, tequila with citrus cordial and functional oils floating on top. Leandra went with the Brutalism, mixing mezcal, St.Germain and other flavors with a sprig of fried baby’s breath flowers!

Little Red Door Eric @ Little Red Door

Friday

Breakfast @ Pauls – Pain de chocolate and hot chocolate to go? Yes please.

Lunch @ La Galerie des Pains – quick takeaway ham sandwich on a crusty baguette (of course!) from a cozy bakery in Fontainebleau, eaten in Jardin de Diane.

Snack @ Boulangerie Martin – with a late dinner planned we needed a snack, so stopped for take-away pastries. I choose the eclair with raspberries and Leandra a cheese tartlet, and both were quickly consumed in a small park by Notre Dame.

Dinner @ Au Bourguignon du Marais – our table wasn’t quite ready for our 9pm reservation, so we were asked to sit at a side table and given menus and a light appetizer while we waited. A few minutes later we were shown to our table and introduced to our waiter who was quite warm and personable. I went straight for the Boeuf Bourguignon, Leandra the Tartare traditionnel, and neither of us regretted our choice! To top it off we split the Crème brûlée with bourbon sauce. OMG.

  creme brulee!

Saturday

Lunch @ Creperie Beaubourg – Crepes! I tried their house cider to go with my ham and cheese crepe, while Leandra stuck to wine with her  mushroom and roquefort crepe. Both were fine, but not great. We sat outside under the awning enjoying the people watching around Stravinsky square.

buckwheat crepes @ Crêperie Beaubourg

Dinner @ Al Caratello – reservations got us a window seat at this busy little Italian restaurant in Montmartre. Leandra ordered the gnocchi bolognese while I ordered the mushroom and ham pasta. Everything was excellent. All tables were full during our meal and there were rotating groups of diners taking smoke breaks in the street out front. The owners also have a place across the street so one waiter was frequently shuttling cocktails to the other location. After we paid our bill we were offered a small glass of limoncello to end our meal. Lovely.

Ristorante al Caratello

my date enjoying a limoncello  pasta and my glowing gnocchi @ Ristorante al Caratello  

Sunday

Lunch – picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Dinner @ Les Philosophes – another busy restaurant, even at 9pm on Sunday. I went for the wild cod fillet in coconut milk curry sauce, while Leandra choose the French Onion soup and pork pâté (Thierry Schweitzer).  Service was a bit harried here, it was definitely more difficult to get a server’s attention than at other restaurants. I did like the fact that you could get varying sizes of several wines by the glass (25cl, 50cl, bottle).