Archive for January, 2009

January 20, 2009

Rome: Eats


I had the privilege of spending last weekend in Rome.

High on the agenda were:

  • Eating
  • Vatican Galleries, including the Sistine Chapel
  • The Colosseum

I recognize that lumping together what is frequently regarded as a Wonder of the Medieval Age, one of the most famous sets of Renaissance frescoes, and my constant need to eat something may seem a bit odd, but I have my priorities, starting with food.

(You can enlarge the picture of all the eats and a bit of the Largo di Torre Argentina by selecting on it)

1. Meat & Cheese Plate
2. Spagetti Carbonara: Carbonara is a bacony, egg yolky sauce. It’s a typical Roman dish. Prior to having it in Rome, I had always found it presented with a cream sauce, rather than one that was yolky. The real deal is superior, by far.
3. Tartufo: gelato covered in mousse. The chocolate one (tartufo nero) was all chocolate, where as the white one (tartufo blanco) contained coffee flavored gelato.
4. Room Service Breakfast: not impressive, but it had a lot to compete with outside
5. Gelato to go #1: Nutella
6. Spagetti Bolognese: Another local dish, it was much less meaty than versions I’ve had in Italian restaurants in other countries.
7. Gelato to go #2: Pistachio
8. Prociutto & Melon
9. Saltimbocca: Veal wrapped in prociutto. I was so blinded by the prociutto goodness that not did I I forget the name of the dish, but I ate 2/3 of it before I was reminded to take a picture of it, thus the duplicate.
10. Deceptive Roll #1: This roll looks like it’s full of squishy goodness, but it was hollow!
11. Gelato to go #3: Tutti Frutti Siciliano: My least favorite, it tasted like Christmas fruitcake. I managed to trade it for my husband’s cup of Chocoloso, which consisted of cream flavored gelato with white chocolate cookie pieces. Fortunately, his eyes were bigger than his stomach, so he didn’t mind. That, and he didn’t want me to get violent.
12. Club Sandwich: This had eggs in it, and it made for a delicious breakfast.
13. Gelato/ Sorbetto to go #4: Coconut
14. Pizza: This was fantastic pizza. Thin crust, fresh cheese, beautiful tomatoes; that the restaurant brought me a bottle of wine rather than a glass had upsides and downsides.
15. Bread: to absorb the wine
16. Gelato to go #5: Hazelnut
17. Rice Ball & Fried Mozzarella: The rice ball was interesting with plenty of tomatoes and mushrooms. The mozzarella just reinforced my conclusion that fried cheese is a Platonic ideal food; specifically, that all foods may be improved through the addition of cheese and/or frying.
18. Carbonara #2: So much better than Carbonara 1!
19. Gelato to go #6: Strachiatelli: Likely misspelled, this is sweet cream flavored gelato with chocolate pieces.
20. Yogurt
21. Croissant
22. Pollo alla Romana & Spinach (this included decptive roll #2, which is not in the picture): A local dish of Chicken with peppers and tomatoes.
23. Gelato to go #7: Panna Cotta – definitely one of the best
24. White chocolate thingy
25. Airport caprese sandwich: If you look closely, you might note the absence of a piece of mozzarella, aka: The One That Got Away (TOTGA). Having learned that the flight was delayed, I settled down with the sandwich, only to have TOTGA fly out of my sandwich when I zealously dug in. *sigh*
26. Airport Pastry: I will find out what this one is called. It’s basically a thin ribbon filo dough cocooning a tasty custard center. This is worth looking at, if anything because it’s so precise and simple. It’s beautiful and tasty too.

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January 13, 2009

Missing: Bathroom Electrical Socket


Another thing I never really minded until I moved here…  no bathroom electrical socket.

In another case of Health & Safety zeal, English bathrooms may only have electrical outlets that connect through an isolating transformer rather than directly to the main, like other outlets.

Even the light switches are outside of the bathroom, which makes my habit of turning off lights especially fun for others.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that risk created by a collaborative effort uniting my bathroom sink and 220v of direct current could result in a very brief pyrotechnics display worthy of a KISS show.

I do not want my obituary to credit a, “Sonicare-related episode” or a, “freak hairstyling accident” for my untimely death. I just want to dry my hair in there.

Eventually, the siren song of the opportunity to blow dry under the unforgiving lights of my bathroom was simply too much to resist. I went in.

So, to get around this obstacle, I added a gang socket (American: short extention cord with lots of outlets) into the mix, which I plugged into the outlet in the hallway within my apartment. Bear in mind that the bathroom where I want to pursue my walk on the wild side/hairdrying is accessible from the bedroom; however, the closest outlet is actually in the hallway. I gather that not only can there not be regular sockets in the bathroom but there can’t be any nearby.

The extension cord added to the fun by adding yet another event to the obstacle course I lovingly call home in the early morning. It provided my husband with a much-needed agility test that I’m sure he enjoyed much more than he said he did at the time. I felt it was the least I could do given that he had mastered the occasional minefield that is the cat and his indigestion.

Hair dried, I disassembled the rig, and retired it. Perhaps the Health & Safety culture is wearing off on me, but realistically, it’s laziness teamed with the acceptance of my lack of hairdryer skills.

January 9, 2009

Electrifying Taste: Office Yogurt


After the flapjack incident, I went back to the snackbar on my floor at work for more because I’m a glutton for punishment.

I spotted some fruit yogurt (made by Stapleton Farm), purchased it, and went back to my desk.

It wasn’t until I was half way through it that I actually read the packaging:

25% fruit gives electrifying taste!

Electrifying taste doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds scary and being American, that says a lot.

The US is really the land of the superlative. People will describe a latte as, “Awesome!” Every movie trailer includes the term, “Riveting!” Hell, we invented Monster Trucks!

The UK is much more subtle. An exquisite meal will be recalled with compliments such as, “Rather nice”. A very good show might muster a, “Quite good” or maybe a, “Brilliant”. In TV adverts, A snack cake company‘s slogan describes their products as, “Exceedingly good”.

I wonder what the target market is for fruit yogurt with electrifying taste. Given that I did buy and eat it, it might be yours truly.

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January 4, 2009

Signage: Unattended Children


One of the best signs, ever.

This was posted in a barbershop window near Smithfield Market.

January 3, 2009

Humps for 680 Yards


In the last twelve months, signs promising humps ahead, such as the one pictured, have become a very common sighting.

The humps are, in fact, everywhere. Disappointingly, they’re just what Americans call speedbumps; although, the English also call them Sleeping Policemen. My cycle route to work is laden with them, which can make for a miserable commute after a late night out.

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January 2, 2009

The Flapjack


This morning, I embarked on a mission to brave the flapjack.

It has been there all along at the snackbar on the floor of my office , but I’ve held back, as while it looks like it could be a delicious cookie, it could also go horribly wrong.

It started out well. The flapjack is a lot like a very dense and buttery oatmeal cookie that has been made in the style of dessert bars, which are sliced inside the pan.

I had planned to take a picture of the flapjack outside of its packaging, but I was too enthralled while eating it to stop and take a picture. I also realized that someone might pop in and catch me trying to take a reasonable picture of a bisected flapjack and have yet another reason to think I’m a bit odd.

Then it all went wrong.

I finished the flapjack and cast the wrapper to the corner of my desk, where I’m saving garbage to build a nest for the apocalypse. Shortly after, my eyes wandered over to the wrapper while on a call, and I flipped the wrapper over to check out the nutritional information…

Expiration: 23 November 2008
(Apologies, the picture from my Blackberry is a bit blurry.)

What to do?

I felt OK… but, then again, my husband does proudly tell strangers that I could (and would, probably) eat a bowl of change.

Should I tell the canteen that they’re selling expired food?
-Yes: It’s the right thing to do.
-No: I could allow other people the choice to have a possible sick day due to the snack bar’s silent threat. I might steal another’s opportunity for joy, to be had only by making one’s new graduates eat a snack with a not lengthy enough shelf life.

Then I forgot about it; something shiny got my attention, or possibly it was just work. I took the secret home with me, seemingly unscarred by my snack.

Now, I have concerns that my consumption of this expired flapjack may have affected my experience, requiring me to repeat the experiment and eat another; only this time, a fresh one.

More to follow.

January 1, 2009

Today’s Weather: Very Cold & Dull


There’s a candor to the BBC’s weather forecast that is above and beyond any I have ever experienced from a news program.

Today’s forecast promised weather that was not just cold but, “Very cold and dull”.

Happy New Year!