Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fresh Fruit Popsicles, Biang Biang Noodles, and Provolone Meatball Subs at Harringay Market

Last weekend, it was beautiful outside, but I was feeling rotten with the onset of this flu virus I've had all week. Feeling bitter that none of the street food stalls I'd been dying to try in London were open on Sundays (including KERB, in King's Cross), I was super excited to stumble upon London Eating's mid-morning tweet announcing Harringay Market's food line-up for the day. My mouth watered at the prospect of trying Mama Wang's traditional Chinese hand "pulled" biang biang noodles, plus the enticing sound of Capish's provolone meatball sub.

At this point, I really should have listened to my body and stayed in bed (I had a fever and aches at this point, plus a throat so swollen that I could hardly swallow), but stubbornly, I didn't want the bug to ruin my weekend. So, John and I trudged to the bus stop and made it to Harringay in less than 20 minutes.

The market is set up within an elementary school ground, which lends it a terrific feeling of community. It's clear that locals visit regularly to catch up at the small tables set up on the playground, while their kids play happily within watching distance. There's also live music, which adds to the overall ambience. It all felt very friendly and inviting - but most importantly, not overcrowded, which can often ruin my food stall experiences in London (have you ever tried elbowing your way through Borough Market? I love it there, but it's often just too much for me to handle. Feel the same way about Greenwich Market).

In Vietnam and Thailand, we paid a pittance (around 80p per dish) to enjoy the street food - in London of course, it's quite a different story. A bowl of noodles, a sub sandwich, two popsicles, two brownies, and two drinks later (yeah ... um ... we overindulged) set us back around £25, which is more than we'd usually spend on lunch. But it's the experience that counts.

I had my first popsicle (or as Brits call them here, "ice lollies" - one phrase I will *not* be adopting, thankyouverymuch) of the year:

A delicious blend of fresh, frozen raspberries with a twist of vanilla ice cream from Ice Kitchen. At £2.50 a pop, it's possibly the most expensive popsicle I've ever had but undoubtedly the best as well. It's essentially frozen fruit, which I know I could probably make myself, given the time and effort, but on a day when I was feeling downright lousy, it was an absolute savior to my sore throat.

By the time we returned home, I felt a lot worse, so surrendered to Motrin and my bed. Still, I'll definitely be returning to Harringay Market soon for more delicious street eats and friendly conversation.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Say 'Yes' To Pulled Pork, Kimchi & Cheese Frites* (that's Freedom Fries to us 'Mericans) @ John Salt, Islington

There are "date nights", and then there are those spontaneous date nights that happen when John texts me out of the blue at work to ask, "Hey! Why don't we go out to dinner tonight? Just the two of us?" Yes, John, just the two of us - without our three imaginary, non-existent children. That would be so fun.

I love it when John suggests going out mid-week; it's exciting to try new places, order alcohol on a school night, and generally relax together with some excellent food. The problem is, when these spontaneous texts arrive, they always happen to occur on the one day I've decided to dress down (and I hardly ever do that) and he always happens to suggest a restaurant where palate refreshers and white tablecloths are involved. Get the picture?

Thankfully, he suggested going to one of our local favorites (that requires no dressing up, unless you want to make an effort to look like an anorexic hipster - challenging for me), Duke's Brew & Que (for those of you who are not acquainted, GET ACQUAINTED) for ribs, sliders, and burgers. Obviously, I love the place, but not when I'm trying to watch what I eat (I'm gonna avoid using the four-letter D-word here). So I suggested a possibly lighter option, John Salt, which has recently opened on Upper Street and might look familiar to you Islingtonites, because it used to be Keston Lodge (don't worry if you don't remember it, it wasn't really worth remembering).

Of course, being on a d*et and all, what did I order? Just a whole baby chicken and a side of pulled pork, kimchi, and cheese fries. And a green salad, for the healthy part.

So what if I had to not-so-surreptitiously unbutton the top button of my Topshop skinny jeans under the table? So what if the two pounds I managed to lose this week totally popped back on the scale when I got home? Can I just tell you, though? Those fries were AMAZING. Sorry, frites. AMAZING. I know that Kimchi fries have been around for a while now in the States, but the UK is a bit slow on the uptake for such things so John Salt deserves a serious pat on the back for bringing them to London. My green chilli poussin was tender and glazed in a deliciously tangy barbecue sauce. But the fries, oh, the fries. They were my downfall.

And then the dessert. THE DESSERT. Oreo, peanut butter (crunchy), and chocolate tart. Innocent sounding enough (to an American, at least), right? It was divine. I almost wept at how perfect it tasted (this could also be down to the fact that I've been trying to deprive myself of sugar all week). If there was a shrine to this dessert, I'd worship its incredible-ness. Even John, who usually feels so-so about the dessert, pulled the plate a little closer to his side of the table.

And the bill? It didn't hurt that much. Food, drinks, and service came to a respectable £63. I'd say that the 12.5% was deserved. Our server was pleasant, non-obtrusive, more than happy to answer my 100 questions about the menu (it doesn't give away much, to say the least, in terms of descriptions), and totally nice.

So will I be back? Absolutely. D*et or no d*et.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Warming Vinyasa Flow @ Yoga on the Lane, Dalston

The first thing I ask myself when visiting a new yoga studio that I've never tried before is, "Is it a friendly place?" Is it welcoming and inclusive? If not, I'll probably never visit again. There's nothing worse than feeling intimidated and shy already, only to be met with teachers who ignore you and students who give you the stink-eye when you've unknowingly "stolen" their usual spot. This has happened to me at a couple of locations across the UK and I've just walked away from my practice at those particular studios (and on occasion, gym) feeling a bit sad; it's a shame for yogis and yoginis to foster this kind of hostile attitude and environment. It bring so much negativity to a practice that should be open, kind, and above all, humble.

So, I was a little nervous to try the newest (and reportedly coolest, according to several online sources) studio in London. Not only is Yoga on the Lane in Dalston both friendly and inviting, but their beautiful studio and space makes you feel like you're practicing in the comfort of a friend's living room. Simply but tastefully decorated, the studio provides mats and a variety of props so you don't have to worry about bringing your own (plus, they don't smell, which is always good news to me).

Upon entering the studio, I was surprised by how small the room was. Long and narrow, I was worried about space, though it did fit about 15 students comfortably. Did I mention that their studio's floors feature under-floor heating? Do you know how amazing that makes savasana feel? Or how amazing it feels to practice vinyasa flow in a room that's gently heated when you've traipsed in from -2 degree temperatures?

The Level 1 class was taught by Tony Watson, whose background is in contemporary dance (like Lauren's). I remember closing my eyes at the beginning of the practice, when we worked on our pranayama, and feeling a smile creep across my face. I felt safe and mindful; I felt good. I was also concerned that the teacher wouldn't bother making corrections if the class was so full. I once took an ashtanga class where the instructor stayed on her own mat for the entire class - which is cool if that's the kind of instruction you prefer, but not for me, as I'm always striving to make improvements and learn more from my practice. I was super glad to see Tony making small corrections to students throughout, myself included, and grateful for his attention to detail. In particular, I found his detailed method of instruction helpful; I imagine it's difficult to teach alignment to students who haven't studied dance before (I had fourteen years of classical ballet training), but Tony managed to teach us how to feel correct alignment instead, which was both innovative and phenomenal.

I left the class feeling much more positive about my day and the rest of the week. If those are the benefits of taking one class at Yoga on the Lane, I'm eager to find out what a regular practice there would bring me.

Photo source
© angloyankophile

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