Scenes of Christmas in London, part 2
What is Bokeh? Click here
Same scene, "normal" view:
The Sunday Roast is to the British what Sunday Brunch is to Americans. It's a Sunday tradition. Nearly every restaurant & pub in the UK offers a variation of the meal on Sunday afternoons. After many attempts, The Two Crabs have finally perfected their Roast, complete with gravy, roasted veg and wonderfully flaky Yorkshire Puddings (at right). Called "Yorkies," they are not actually a pudding; they are more of a biscuit made of flour, milk and eggs that are used for dipping in the gravy. And by biscuit, I mean the American definition of the word, not British "cookies"!
The Two Crabs tried & true Sunday Roast recipe is the result of several attempts, some good, some not so good. Your oven will probably vary. For Americans, the most challenging part of this recipe will be finding a suitable tray to make the Yorkies. Yorkshire Pudding Tins, while common in British culinary shops and grocery stores, are very rare in America. Your best option is to invest in a "Muffin Top Pan" like THIS ONE. They are a bit like cupcake pans, but the indentations are much shallower and wider. Alternatively, you could make your own out of tin foil. Good luck!
Sunday Roast Dinner (serves 4)
3 lb prime rib beef
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbs dry mustard
5 oz red wine
5 oz beef stock
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
bag of small potatoes
two large carrots
Broccoli & cauliflower (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 450F
2. Season the meat with salt and pepper, and rub in the mustard and flour
3. Mix the red wine, stock and Worcestershire sauce
4. Place the meat in a roasting pan and pour the sauce over the meat so it settles into the pan. Put the entire pan in the oven for 15 minutes at 450F.
5. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes and carrots into large golf ball-sized chunks.You can also place your other favorite veg including broccoli, cauliflower, onion slices, etc.
6. Reduce the heat to 375F. Place the veg in the roasting pan around the meat
7. Cook for another 40 minutes for medium rare, or 50 minutes for medium. Baste every 15 minutes with the sauce from the pan bottom.
8. Remove roast from oven and cover with foil and let rest while you make the Yorkies (below). Raise oven temperature to 425F.
1 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 tbs lard for each Yorkie
1. Preheat Oven to 425F
2. Heat the lard in the microwave for a few seconds until it turns to liquid. Place one tablespoon of the liquid lard into each pudding cup
3. Put the Yorkie pan in the oven and heat for 10 minutes until the fat is really hot and beginning to smoke
4. Combine the salt, eggs and milk with a wisk
5. Sift the flour into the batter as you wisk it together (works best with a friend)
6. Remove pan from oven; fill the cups 1/2 way up with batter. No more, no less!
7. Place the pan back in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING COOKING! The puddings will puff up, crisp and turn goldeny brown.
Serve the roast, veg and Yorkshire pudding together. Serve with your favorite gravy!
After 3-plus years in London, the Two Crabs have finally -- FINALLY -- found good, authentic Mexican food in London. The winner (drum roll, please.....):
This place is awesome! Located in a trendy residential neighborhood in a nondescript store front, Taqueria is a local's favorite restaurant. Taqueria is owned and operated by the same folks who brought us Cool Chili Company, the mail order and Borough Market stall that sells authentic Mexican ingredients and supplies. So it's no surprise that Taqueria is just as authentic.
We walked in and were immediately met by wonderful customer service. The friendly hostess accomdated our seating request and immediately brought out the beer and drink list, which includes a large selection of margaritas, tequillas and Mexican beers including our favorite, Negra Modelo.
We started our meal with quesadillas that were good, though a bit bland for Mr. Crab's tastes. But things quickly got better. For our main entree, we shared a plate of carne asada tacos (char grilled skirt steak with avocado mash, Salsa Mexicana on corn tortillas) and a plate of refried beans with cheese. The tacos come open-faced. The meat was perfectly marinated and juicy. The whole taco was an explosion of flavors with just the right amount of spices and veg without being overpowering or too spicy. The side sauces, especially the Salsa Mexicana, was wonderful. The beans were wonderful and smoky, just like my mom makes.
Other items on the menu include tostadas, tortas, tortilla soup, and about a dozen types of tacos including chorizo (Mexican spicy sausage), carnitas (shredded slow-cooked pork), shrimp (that's prawns for you Europeans), fish, chicken, vegeterian cheese and spinache and more. Extras include fried plaintains, corn on the cob, garlicky spinache and several types of beans including black and pinto.
The food at Taqueria is predominately from the flavors of central Mexico; Americans and Europeans accustomed to Tex-Mex may be in for a surprise, or even a disappointment. You won't find any fajitas, chalupas, Mexican pizzas, burritos or other Americanized items on the menu here.
For desert we had one order of the chocolate and mango ice cream & sorbet, and the fried cinamon churros with Mexican chocolate sauce.
The price is very reasonable. Appetizers are about £4.50, an order of tacos £4-6.50 and deserts £3.50.
Located about 15 minutes walk from Notting Hill station, it's a bit of a hike for those of us in North London, but well worth it. Many of the staff even speak Spanish, though based on the lisping accents I suspect they are actually from Spain, not Mexico.The interior of the restaurant is nothing special; it looks like a friendly neighborhood restaurant with soft music in the background. It's divided into two rooms; the main dining room and the reception area that has a bar, two small tables and a shelf of items from Cool Chile Co. line of Mexican products including the best store-made corn tortillas in London...and dare I say all of Europe!
THE TWO CRABS REVIEWS OF LONDON MEXICAN RESTAURANTS
Cafe Pacifico (Covent Garden): Better than average. 3.5 out of 5 stars
Chiquito (Soho): Average Tex-Mex chain restaurant. 2 out of 5 stars
Desperados (Angel Islington): Absolutely horrendous. 1 out of 5 stars
Mucho Mas (Angel Islington): Average. 2 out of 5 stars
Puerto Mexico (Syndenham): Average. 2 out of 5 stars
TAQUERIA (Notting Hill). EXCELLENT. 5 out of 5 stars. Best authentic Mexican food in London!
Texas Embassy (Trafalgar Square). Pretty good Tex-Mex restaurant. 3 out of 5 stars
Tortilla (Angel Islington): Rather quite good! Equivelent to Chipolte in USA. 3.5 out of 5 stars
Cool Chile Company (Borough Market) A market stall in London's famous foodie Borough Market that sells authentic ingredients including dried poblano chiles, tortillas, mole sauce and mole-making kits, Mexican chocolate, black beans, tomatillos and more.
This is a rant I've been meaning to write for a while. Apologies for the delay.
A few months ago when I was back home in Arlington, Virginia, I raided our storage attic to retrieve a mirror that we wanted to bring back to London. I bought the mirror about 10 years ago in Mexico for only about $40, but it has priceless sentimental value. It was too big to bring on a plane as a carry-on, so I decided to mail it. That's when I made the big mistake of sending it via the UPS Store -- specifically, UPS Store #3326 in Towson, Maryland.
For those who aren't familiar, UPS Store (previously known as Mailboxes ETC) is a chain of shops across the United States that will help facilitate mailing of items, particularly odd-shaped items. They sell packaging supplies like boxes, tape, packing peanuts, etc. The offer a variety of shipping methods; obviously they try to steer you to their own UPS service, but will also send it via regular ol' U.S. Postal Service (USPS). After they quoted me $300 to send by UPS, I settled on the regular postal mail. I was at first quoted about $100...as the clock kept ticking, they kept tacking on charges. My final bill to mail a $40 mirror to London was
$142.29. The breakdown:
Packing material (peanuts & tape): $10.32
Cardboard box: $19.12
Service charge: $8.00
U.S. Postal Service Global Priority Mail: $103.08
It's bad enough that they are charging $29.44 just for packing materials plus $8 service charge; they had to make a profit somewhere. But I assumed the $103.08 was out of their control and they were using standard prices set by the USPS. The next day I flew home to London. The package arrived about 4 days later; everything was tip-top and the mirror survived intact. That's when I noticed the shipping label, and that's what got me really steamed.
Actual cost for shipping the package from Baltimore to London by Global Priority Mail: $65.
That's right: UPS STORE CHARGED A FRACKING 63.11% MARKUP ABOVE USPS!
At no time was I ever told by UPS Store idiots that I was being charged a fee higher than the price I would pay had I walked into a regular post office. They already charged me an $8 service charge. And I could even understand a small, say 10% markup. But 63% MARKUP!?!?!
I went onto the UPS Store website and wrote a complaint letter. No response. I wrote a second letter. No response. I have now written three letters on their online complaint form, and sent other emails. I have NEVER received a response from anybody at UPS Store. So screw em. My next email is to the Better Business Bureau.
BOYCOTT THE UPS STORE!!
And support your local U.S. Post Office.