12 Bones

If you ever find yourself in Asheville, North Carolina. Let me start over. Plan a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. And when I say Asheville, I mean 12 Bones. When you combine perfectly smoked meat, incredible specialty BBQ sauces (blueberry chipotle is my favorite), and incredibly rich sides, it’s no wonder 12 Bones has been voted hands down best ribs in the country. They have two tiny locations with rickety picnic bench seating, the food comes out on tin miner pans, each restaurant is open five days per week, and when the run out of ribs they close. You play by their rules. And trust me, you will want to play. These ribs are what dreams are made of, especially when paired with cheesy jalapeno grits and buttered green beans. (Mmm, is 8am too early for ribs?)

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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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Mojito Master Class

It’s no secret that I’m a wine girl. But when I want to up the ante a bit, rum is my go-to liquor. So it makes sense that mojitos are one of my favorite beverages. I’ve had my fair share of these beauties over the years. When I studied abroad in Spain, I regularly ordered mojitos that were from a machine that emitted mojito mix, rum was poured in, and maybe a few mint leaves were thrown on top if the bar was feeling fancy that day. They were cheap, the size of small pitchers, and generous with the rum so that became my usual.

master barman 2But let’s be honest – that’s not a proper mojito. A proper mojito requires fresh lime and sometimes some muddling… what is that you ask? I didn’t know either. Until Sunday that is when I attended an Indytute Mojito Master Class by Ping Pong located at the incredible Battersea Power Station. My friend Laura and I arrived early and were served (yup, you guessed it) a mojito to keep us busy. Once our fellow cocktail classmates arrived, the madness began. Demonstrations were thorough, but once the competition started, limes, sugar, and rum were flying in every which direction as we attempted to make the best mojito in the shortest amount of time. As the recipes got more elaborate and the intoxication level rose, the master barman’s face after each taste got funnier and funnier. “Did you forget to add ________?” became a common question. In the end we let him make our drinks while we sat in the sun and enjoyed a lazy summer Sunday.

Now that I’m completely sober, let me enlighten you on how to make a proper mojito… I am now a master after all.

mojito 1Ingredients:
– 1 Tb. lime juice
– 1 Tb. simple syrup
– 10 fresh mint leaves
– a double shot of rum
– a dash of soda water
– 1 lime wedge
– crushed ice

Method: Add the lime juice, simple syrup, and mint leaves, to your glass. Add crushed ice so the glass is about 1/4 full. Using a bar spoon, mix the ingredients, pulling the mint leaves toward the top. Add the rum. Fill the glass completely with ice. Stir again. Top with a dash of soda water, a fresh lime wedge, and mint leaves for garnish.

Viola! A classic mojito made with fresh ingredients!

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Eating My Way Through London

Whoever said London has terrible food was going to the wrong places! This amazing city has everything from world-renowned cuisine served in breathtaking restaurants to hole-in-the-wall dives where you grab your delicious grub and run. Dishes from each and every country can be found dotted throughout the city – and you don’t necessarily have to leave central London to enjoy truly authentic and unique culinary experiences.

Greenwich Nutella Mini PancakesThis weekend I turned twenty-two and between all the sightseeing, I filled my time refueling with new and exciting food. Day one was spent exploring along the south bank and eating Brazilian food, then catching a boat down the river to Greenwich where I noshed on mini pancakes generously draped in nutella and strawberries, all before heading to the weirdest meal of my life.

Famous for serving the “most unusual food in London,” Archipelago didn’t disappoint. We were escorted to the dimly lit basement where we sat at a table that had a huge bouquet of peacock feathers – these were relocated in order to allow cross-table conversion which mostly consisted of commenting on the eclectic decor. Mini towels were placed in a bowl and then topped with hot water, which upon contact expanded into hand-towels. As we browsed the menu, I inquired about the lovebug salad – but once it was discovered that the “wildlife” served on top of the greens was a variety of insects, we decided to steer clear of that particular dish. Instead we opted to start with zebra, crocodile, and python. Surprisingly, the jerked zebra was the crowd favorite. The crocodile wrapped in vine leaves was nice, but didn’t really taste like anything unusual. And the python carpaccio was more salty than any of us preferred. For mains, we decided to go with more mainstream dishes – bison rump and duck confit. These were yummy – but the overall verdict is that you reserve a table at Archipelago for the experience and bragging rights more than the food quality.

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Day two was spent perusing the shops on Upper Street. I fell in love with the quirky independent stores which housed everything from clothing and stationary to odd cooking gadgets and funny gifts. All that window shopping of course called for brunch. We stopped into La Farola, an adorable Spanish restaurant which had a brunch menu consisting of just five options – but five delicious options! I chose a vegetable pisto topped with broiled mozzarella and two poach eggs, served with a side salad and spiced breakfast potatoes. Delicious!!! Fried eggs and chorizo, a cured ham, cheese, and fried egg toastie, tea, and coffee also made their way to our table. At just £6 a person, this is definitely a place to return to!

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Oh and we obviously had to stop into the gluten free bakery!!!

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The day continued with more shopping through Old Spitalfields Market and wandering through London, all of which had me starving by the time dinner came around. I met up with family friends who took me out for a birthday dinner at Balthazar. We had lovely dinner which kicked off with pommes frites instead of bread (my ultimate weakness), followed by an octopus, tomato, and basil salad speckled with olives and shallots, all tossed in a light lemon dressing. For my main dish, I selected sea bass “en papillotte” with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fennel, and tarragon. And anyone who knows me is well aware that you don’t have to twist my arm to order dessert. Out came a pavlova which was wrapped around vanilla bean ice cream and sat on top of fresh strawberry sauce – with a little happy birthday message written in chocolate. I blew out my birthday candle and called my birthday celebration to a close. Don’t tell, but I wished that I could eat like this every weekend!

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