High Tea: A Very English Afternoon

What would a summer in London be without a proper afternoon high tea? Incomplete, that’s what. So when it came to my attention that there was a popular tea room and bakery that served up a cake stand filled with gluten free goodies, I was sold! Enter Bake-a-boo, a darling destination tucked away in West Hampstead. With about 20 brews to choose from, I took advantage of the endless tea by ordering first a pot of vanilla and then a pot of almond, both of which were delicious!

IMG_6389And of course there were the treats! I started by nibbling on the finger sandwiches before digging into the scones. I layered on the cream and jam quite generously… to the point of needing to take a break before diving into the cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries. Laura and I killed some time by chatting and sipping on tea… but it didn’t last long because the blueberry and vanilla cupcake was calling screaming my name. As were the chocolate covered strawberries immediately after. But that’s where I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t stomach the last raspberry cupcake, so that will have to be my dessert with lunch tomorrow!

Bake-a-boo is the perfect place for anyone looking for an amazing afternoon tea, but especially fantastic for those of us with food sensitivities! In addition to their gluten free spread, they have a dairy free and sugar free option! And the entire café is adorable… right down to the bathroom adorned with a wall collage of hilarious and clever canvases. Ok, all of this reminiscing is making me crave that last cupcake. Maybe it won’t last until lunch tomorrow after all…

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Mojito Making: Round Two

IMG_6364Last weekend, Laura and I headed to a Mojito Master Class. We had such a great time in our attempt to master the mojito, we decided to continue the pursuit in perfecting our new craft. So just four days later, we were back in the hands of the Ping Pong bar master for another round of beverage lessons… this time accompanied by amazing food!

Being gluten free doesn’t usually put a damper on my foodie adventures, however dim sum is probably one of the more difficult menus to navigate… and Ping Pong is a dim sum restaurant. Luckily this establishment is prepared for people like me and has an entire gluten free menu!!! I’ve actually found London in general to be pretty accommodating for those of us affected by gluten intolerance – many menus are allergen marked and/or have a separate gluten free menu of items. Ping Pong sent out round after round of piping hot, gluten free nibbles for me as my friends shared other dishes. I prepared my stomach for the alcohol to come with edamame, a vegetable and rice pot in black bean sauce, rice and meat rolled in banana leaves, a carrot and squid salad, and a citrus mochi ball. It was a feast!

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After all that food it was time for drinks! I graduated from the classic mojito on to a blackberry and chambord variation. The result: sweet and refreshing!

IMG_6376Ingredients:
– 4 blackberries
– 3 lime wedges
– 1.5 tsp. sugar
– 10 mint leaves
– double shot of rum
– 1 Tb. chambord
– crushed ice
– optional garnish: two mint leaves and a lime wedge

Method: Add the blackberries, lime wedges, and sugar to a glass and muddle well. Add the mint leaves, rum, and crushed ice so that the glass is 1/3 full. Using a bar spoon, stir, pulling the mint towards the top. Pack the glass with crushed ice until full. Top with chambord. Garnish and enjoy!

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Seven Days In Spain: A Week Full Of Firsts

I have now been in Spain for seven days and I feel somewhat acclimated to my new life. I’ve already experienced my first legal alcoholic beverage, my first extremely embarrassing moment, my first night out on the town, and my first foreign affair.

Flying International
Wow! What a difference from flying within the United States. While the seats are still uncomfortably close together, at least everyone receives a surprisingly high quality pillow and blanket. After a little nap, I was woken up for dinner and the food was delicious! I have never enjoyed airplane food in my life… another first! It may also have to do with the fact that it came with a glass of wine. When the “sommelier” asked me if I wanted a glass of wine with dinner, I looked at him like he was crazy. He must have thought I was the crazy one for thinking that I wasn’t old enough to drink. Once it dawned on me that I was free of the states and it’s 21 year old drinking age, the nice flight attendant gave my entire row a wine tasting. So it was on the plane only hours after departing from LAX that I was in love with Europe… and I hadn’t even stepped foot there yet!

Full from the delicious food and happily sipping on my first legal alcoholic beverage, I decided to see how ridiculously overpriced the movies were. Guess what? It was free. I know, I still can’t quite believe it myself. As I browsed the selection I decided to pass on Taken, the movie about a girl abroad getting kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. I instead decided on The Five Year Engagement and put any fears about being in a foreign country alone behind me. I barely had finished the movie and closed my eyes when I was woken up during the breakfast service. It had only been a few hours since dinner! But with the time change, I forced myself to eat an omelet, fruit, and yogurt in order to adjust to my new schedule.

The rest of the flight was easy enough. My layover in London was relatively short. And I arrived safe and sound in Madrid, Spain.

Embarrassing Moment #1
Well it’s official: Spain now knows I’m a complete klutz and can barely stay upright on my own two feet. I thought my skill and ability to consistently embarrassing myself might be a United States thing, but it’s unfortunately a universal talent.

I was trying to get into my own apartment building on my second night here. I thought my key was broken. I tried turning it all the way to the right, all the way to the left, pulling the door, pushing the door, and every combination of those possible. When someone came down and was trying to get out of the building and saw me struggling, I thought yes, some handsome Spanish man to my rescue! If only it had been that simple. It took a whole team of people to diagnose the problem and undo the damage I had done. Apparently in my struggle to open the door I had twisted the key too many times to the left, dead bolting the door shut. Who new European doors had such a feature?

As soon as the 6 or so men finally opened the door, I thanked them before quickly retreating to my room. I can guarantee my face was bright red. Luckily I haven’t run into any of them since, but I’m sure the time will come.

The Madrid Police Force: My New Favorite Men In Uniform
I’m convinced being extremely attractive is a requirement for joining the Madrid police force. I have yet to come across an officer who isn’t worthy of being featured in a calendar. Calendar? Yes, calendar… the ones of sexy men in uniform that are sold to help raise money for their stations.

I hope Madrid does this because that could quite possibly be the best souvenir ever. But just in case I don’t have any fan posters or calendars to take home with me, I am spending as much time with these men as possible. I use having no idea where I am to my advantage. Whenever I am lost (which is multiple times a day every day), I ask a sexy officer where to go. He points me in the right direction and explains to make a left on this street and right on that street. I have usually have no idea what he said (that either has to do with the fact that I’m distracted by his beauty or the fact that he’s speaking Spanish a thousand miles an hour), but I smile and nod and head in the general direction he pointed. Within a few minutes I’m lost again and I go in search of another sexy man in uniform.

Since when do I go in search of cops? Another first.

The City That Truly Never Sleeps
When people say that NYC is the city that never sleeps, they have clearly never been to Madrid. The metro closes from 1:30am-6am every night. Most would think they need to get home by 1:30, but in Madrid that’s just an excuse to party until at least 6am! When you hop on the metro tired with sore feet and the beginning stages of a hangover at a little after 6am, you are sitting next to someone in a suit off to work for the day. There are always people out and about, at all hours of the day of night.

But with all the partying, catching up on sleep is a necessity. Good thing the city practically shuts down everyday from 2pm-4pm for a siesta. Siesta = nap time = my favorite part of the day. Even during this traditional time to relax, many people continue to go about their day.

My First Foreign Affair
When my San Diego group went out to celebrate a member’s 21st birthday, we went all out. We dressed up nice an fancy, took tons of pictures, and made a big deal out of her finally being legal to drink in the states. But she wasn’t the only one who received a present that night.

Mine came in the form of a sexy foreign man. He wasn’t Spanish, but he was an attractive Italian man and a great dancer. We spent most of the night on the dance floor, and when we took a break and talked it was a combination of English, Spanish, and Italian. Fortunately I wasn’t expecting a deep, intellectual conversation from him. A few dances and kiss goodnight was more than enough.

Week one down, 10 months to go. This is going to be one crazy adventure!