Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cafe Rouge

On our second day of vacation, we went to Stonehenge & Salisbury. It was an early & busy morning - we left the hotel at 7:30 am to walk to Waterloo train station, then we took the 8:20 am train from Waterloo & arrived at 9:43 am in Salisbury. Next we took the 10 am Stonehenge Bus, the only bus that runs out to Stonehenge. It took three hours from when we left the hotel to when we arrived at Stonehenge!

Stonehenge is spectacular and we easily spent 2 hours there. By the time we were back in Salisbury, it was after 1 pm and we were very hungry. There aren't restaurants at Stonehenge - that area is beautiful, rural countryside. Salisbury is a very cute and quaint town and there were lots of options for lunch. We pretty much decided on the first place we saw that looked reasonably priced & had something for everyone: Cafe Rouge. Turns out, Cafe Rouge is a chain that features French cafe inspired food. We ended up having lunch at Cafe Rouge in Salisbury, Canterbury, and Greenwich.
The first time we all ordered Croque sandwiches with salad on the side. Croque Monsieur (smoked ham & gruyere) for me, Madame (smoked ham & gruyere with fried egg) for SP, and Saumon (salmon & Gruyère cheese with horseradish crème fraîche and lemon) for mom. I always ate the Croque Monsiuer because it was the perfect size for me and the gruyere and bechamel sauce was quite good. And the salad was vegetable - we always feel like we don't eat enough vegetables on vacation so if there is a side salad option, we choose it.
For one lunch, mom tried Champignons a L'ail (mushrooms in a cèpe & garlic cream sauce on grilled rye bread). She actually wanted the Croque Champignon but she was kind of shy about attempting to speak French and I think her slightly flustered manner confused our server, who instead of a croque sandwich served her this petit plat. Mom says she pointed on the menu to what she wanted, and I seem to recall she did, but I guess our server just messed up. The Champignons a L'ail was just OK.
For one lunch SP ordered a side salad an this petit plat: Croquettes de Canard (duck croquettes, pea shoots and frisée with orange & chili marmalade). He really liked his duck croquettes.

Cafe Rouge is good place for lunch or dinner if, like us, you are a tourist in search of a quick, tasty, reasonably priced meal. We had the best service at the one in Salisbury, and it was the tastiest, plus nothing on the order got confused and we got to sit outside on a sunny, blue sky day, a perfect travel day. Both of the others had outdoor seating, but in Canterbury it was a rainy, chilly, damp day so we sat inside and in Greenwich we sat outside but for me, it was ruined by the number of people smoking while dining outside.

Café Rouge - Salisbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cafe in the Crypt (St. Martin in the Fields)

When I started researching restaurants in London for our trip, I was overwhelmed. I tried to limit my focus to the areas closest to our hotel and I tried to find reasonably priced places to dine. Dining out in London can get very expensive and we didn't want to be spending $150+ every meal. We also knew that we'd be so busy sight-seeing that we would not want to be bound to a reservation time at a "fancier" dinner. One of the places I found was Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin in the Fields. It's cafeteria style dining in a crypt.
They are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. There are sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts, and a few entrees from which to choose. I was not too excited by the entrees the evening we went (our first dinner in London) but my mom tried the Piri Piri Chicken. It came with a biscuit, salad, and rice. She said it was very tasty but much spicier than she had expected.
SP and I shared a trio of salads: Greek Salad, Couscous with Roasted Red Pepper, Eggplant, Zucchini, and Harissa, and Potato Salad. I really liked the couscous salad. It was a bit spicy, but I couldn't stop eating it. Next to it, the potato salad was nicely cooling with its creamy dressing. The Greek Salad was good, too, tomatoes, cucumbers. kalamata, and onion in a dressing.
We also shared a Chicken~Bacon~Tomato Sandwich. It was good, but I enjoyed the salads more than the sandwich. We were in a bit of a hurry because we had tried to go to several other places but couldn't get in so we arrived a bit late for a Wednesday dinner, probably a bit before 6 pm, and on Wednesdays when they host live jazz, only ticket holders can use the cafe after 6:30 pm. So we quickly ate and then went back to the hotel to catch up on sleep.
As I wrote, it's cafeteria style, so you grab a tray and move through the line, selecting your food. The servers behind the counters were very nice & happy to answer questions. It was neat, not creepy, to sit under those brick vaulted ceilings and have tombstones underneath our feet. It was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square just above our heads. It might not be for everyone, and the options can be a little limited, but we were happy with our experience and suggest it to others.

  Café in the Crypt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, October 4, 2015


A rarity! Blogging on a Sunday, that is. SP is outside doing yard work and I was paying bills - ugh. At least it's not raining. Last night we decided to try a new to us restaurant for dinner, Bakn in Carnegie. It's on East Main Street near the Black Lamb Consignments Shop.
We parked in the parking lot next to One Thirty One East, Carnegie Coffee, and the liquor store and walked to the restaurant. Inside it's gray, a gray floor, gray seats, exposed gray ducts. And not surprisingly, pig decor. I think every dish on the menu has bacon, or if not bacon then pig, so this is definitely not a place for vegetarians. There is a full bar but we opted for tasty fresh brewed iced tea and started off our bacon fest by trying the Bacon Flight:
From left to right: peppered, candied, boar, applewood smoked, and all natural. Our candied piece was a little small so our server brought us another slice. That one was my favorite. Sweet, sugary bacon. The peppered was my second favorite. I liked the boar, but I don't think I'd like it in a large portion.
We also shared Signature Housemade Biscuits with Bakn-Slapped Honey Jam. The biscuits were smaller than we expected, but that was OK because they were a more manageable size then we expected. The jam was OK. I expected a jam like what we get at Burgatory, but this was dry & crumbly, almost like just bacon bits.
 It was tasty, just not what I expected, and I'm not sure I'd order it again.
SP ordered the Bakn Pastrami Reuben (house prepared pork belly pastrami, apple braised sauerkraut, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, dressing, served on marble rye). He added a fried egg to his sandwich and chose salad for his side.
It was a large sandwich and he said it was even tastier than he expected. The salad was a nice size, too, and had fresh, crispy greens and tomatoes. The pork belly was leaner than he expected and that is a good thing.
I chose a Fried Egg Sandwich (fried egg, peppered bacon, Jarlsberg cheese, oven roasted tomato, arugula, baconnaise, on sourdough). It was served with home fries.
I really liked this sandwich. It's one of the best breakfast/egg sandwiches I've ever had if not the best. The oven roasted tomatoes added a nice roasted flavor. The egg was fried just how I asked for it (with the yolk not runny). Lots of peppery bacon. Yummy sourdough. I was sad that I only ate half before feeling full, but then again, bringing home the other half meant I got to enjoy more deliciousness for brunch at home today. The home fries were good, too.

Our server was cheerful and very good - I asked about garlic in the roasted tomatoes and she checked with the chef and then checked with me on just how much garlic bothers me because they use it in the restaurant. She kept SP's iced tea filled.

I was a little confused because the NoWait app said there was a 15-30 minute wait so we put our name on the list as we were driving there, then we walked over, and then found out there were several available tables but we had not received a text that a table was ready - ? It was fine because we were seated right away, but it seemed odd.

I like that Carnegie has some great places now and I'm happy I didn't move too far from Carnegie so we can easily enjoy the tasty new places. We'll definitely return to Bakn.

Bakn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Admiralty

Right across the street from our hotel on Trafalgar Square was a pub: The Admiralty. The above photo shows the pub from the exit we used at the hotel. Literally cross the street. Every time we walked past & thought about going in, it was packed, inside & outside. Plus, there were 2 steps to get inside. We were sad because it was super convenient and because they serve ale & pie. Pies with ale. Meat pies. Yum!
We ended up eating there 3 times (the nice employee at the door, we called him the bouncer guy, helped get the wheelchair up the 2 steps). The first time was after a day spent in Canterbury touring the gorgeous cathedral. That was a Saturday evening, mom's big birthday, and we were very surprised to find an empty table around 6 pm. 
The second time was after getting drenched the day we went to the Changing of the Guard, Churchill War Museum, and Buckingham Palace. DRENCHED. It was around 5 pm that day and we hadn't had much for lunch so everyone was super hungry and tired of getting DRENCHED so we popped our heads in on the way back to the hotel, saw an empty table, and decided to grab it and eat early.
The third time was on our last day in London. It was a Saturday evening, we had reserved a table for 6 pm, and it was also the weekend the Rugby World Cup started. We know nothing about rugby. We didn't even know if the USA had a rugby team in the World Cup (they do). Anyway, you know how crazy people in the US get for the Super Bowl? Especially Pittsburghers if the Steelers are in it? Multiply that by 1000 (or more) and you have rabid rugby fans in a London pub on a Saturday evening. Newly set up TVs were tuned in to the Japan-South Africa match. People were crowded around them. Lots of yelling & cheering & groaning.
Honestly, it was pretty fun. It was neat to experience.
Mom always drank pinot grigio. I always drank afternoon tea with milk. And SP tried the ales. The first time, he tried Oliver's Island:
The second time he got to try the Seafarers he had wanted the first time (but they were out of it) and the final time, he tried Front Row:
My tea, with white and brown sugar cubes and a little bottle of cream:
Turns out I really like brown sugar in tea. I also really do like milk in my tea, but only in tea like breakfast or afternoon tea.
On her birthday, mom finally got her Fish (Cod) & Chips:
She said the fish was excellent and everyone really liked the chips. She even ate her minted peas. They were tricky buggers on a platter, not plate, and more than a few spilled off & bounced onto the floor, but she was happy they weren't mushy peas, which SP had with his fish somewhere and were, as one of our tour guides told us, an "acquired taste."
On our first visit, SP and I both got a pie. He got his Chicken, Ham Hock, and Fuller's Organic Honey Dew pie with chips and salad while I got my White Texel Dorset Leg of Lamb pie with mash and salad, below:
SP and I both liked his pie, but we both liked mine better. Inside SP's pie:
Inside my lamb with red wine , rosemary, and mint gravy pie:
Lots of lamb, excellent rosemary & mint flavor, and the best gravy we had. We all ended up dipping mom's and SP's chips in my gravy pitcher. My mash was also really good and really large, too large, but so good I couldn't stop eating it.
The pie plate was a little too carb filled for SP so, figuring he could "help" me with my chips and pie crust, on subsequent visits he ordered Seared Trout Fillet (potatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon cream). 

Mom ordered ESB Marinated Chicken Breast (spring greens, bacon, new potatoes, beer & mustard sauce) on the last 2 visits:
They both said their meals were delicious. My last 2 meals were Steak & ESB Pie (caramelized shallots, button mushrooms, mustard & ESB gravy):
I always chose the salad of greens, cucumber, and fennel and the chips (instead of mash) the last 2 times because these "french fries" are so much tastier than any fry I've had (except for maybe Belgian style frites). Lots of tender steak inside the pie:
I liked this one best of the three pies we tried, but I liked the lamb gravy best of the 3 gravies we had.
SP did indeed "help" me eat the pie crust and chips, as did mom. The pie plate is quite filling.
On our final night, we decided to share a dessert, the pavlova with berries. It was so pretty! A tower of cream and fruit and meringue with pretty flowers. It was light and just right for us to share. Probably one of my favorite desserts ever.
Obviously, we really liked The Admiralty. It was in a great location for us. The employees were cheerful and helpful. By our final meal, mom was even comfortable enough to go up to the bar counter and order by herself! The food was tasty. It was relaxing even with all the cheering on rugby night! Definitely check it out if you are in the Trafalgar Square/Westminster area, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they serve all three.

The Admiralty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. I can't believe it's Thursday already. I still feel not entirely settled back into "normal" life after vacation.

2. I can't believe it's October! Where the heck did September go?!

3. This week we got into the spirit of fall baking and made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum!

4. It's not hard to be in the fall spirit - not when the house got down to 68 degrees overnight and the furnace kicked on! The only reason it was 69 degrees this morning inside is because I turned the heat on before bed last night. I slept in a long sleeved pajama top, legging, and used the sheet, blanket, and comforter last night. Brrr!

5. More fall spirit: being annoyed at the piles of wet leaves clumped on the deck. Our trees are shedding and the rain is making it kind of messy in the driveway and on the deck.

6. I got out our Halloween decorations. We don't decorate outside, but inside there are now pumpkins, ghosts, witches, mummies, and skeletons.

7. We watched Quantico last Sunday night and we both are hooked.

8. I gave Scream Queens another watch this week and it entertained me enough that I'll keep watching to see who the killer(s) is/are. SP doesn't like the show.

9. Tonight is tough: do I watch the Steelers-Ravens game or Shonda TV?

10. I started reading The Girl in the Spider's Web. I really enjoyed Stieg Larsson's 3 novel Millennium Series. However, I'm not keen on "new" writers carrying on an author's characters/novels after they pass away. But somehow I couldn't not read this novel. I'm only about halfway through but it's pretty good so far although I wish there was more interaction between Lisbeth & Blomkvist.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pret a Manger

I've finally sorted through all 1500+ vacation photos and organized them, so I can finally write about what we ate while in England. I decided to start with Pret a Manger. They are everywhere in London. EVERYWHERE. One across from our hotel, walk 1 block, and there's another. They are like Starbucks here. I think of Pret as like Panera. Only tastier. And more exciting (probably because Panera's menu now bores me and I don't really enjoy Panera as much as I used to plus Pret was like a shiny new toy).
Croissants, cookies, muffins, scones, coffee, tea, sandwiches, soups, salads. Every day for breakfast I had a croissant from Pret. SP had a muffin and tea. Every night my mom stopped in for cappuccino & a cookie. It was lunch our first day in London and on one late evening when we were too tired to think or move, it was dinner. The food is a great price and it's tasty. Above is a Bacon-Brie-Pear sandwich that SP & I shared for lunch on our first day while we sat at an outside table and watched the craziness in Trafalgar Square. "Our lovely creamy brie combines with our crispy bacon & pear chutney topped with watercress on our wholegrain Stone Baked baguette." Yum.  
My mom enjoyed a Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese sandwich. She said it was very good.

One night I had an Orange-White Chocolate cookie that was pretty darn tasty and big.

For one dinner, SP & I each had an Italian Chicken Salad: "Chargrilled Chicken Thigh / Caesar Mayo / Cucumber / Roasted Red Peppers / Baby Plum Tomatoes / Kalamata Olives / Toasted Pistachios / Italian Matured Cheese / Seasoning / Large French Dressing)." The salad was really good -- or we were really that hungry because the only reason we got two salads was because I inhaled the first one before he had managed to kick off his shoes and change into his jammies so he had to go back across the street for the second salad. Which I helped him eat, too. I think he was annoyed that I kept shoving salad in my mouth because usually he eats most of the salads we order. But not that night! The chicken had a terrific grilled flavor. Plus, lots of goodies in with the lettuce, not just one slice of cucumber or half an olive.

That same night we also shared a Ham-Cheese-Tomato-Bacon Croissant (Traditional French Croissant, Ham, Mozzarella, Emmental Cheese, Beech-Smoked Bacon) that was really good.

I didn't take any photos at Pret after that first lunch. But it's definitely a great place for breakfast or lunch or a quick dinner if you're traveling around London. Sadly, Pret has not arrived in Pittsburgh, but there are locations in New York, Boston, Chicago, and DC.

Pret A Manger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nine On Nine

We again bought tickets for the Broadway Season and for us, the new season started this past weekend because we decided to swap one of the shows for Jersey Boys. Jersey Boys was a terrific show. I found myself singing along and bopping in my seat a wee bit! As we always do, we went to dinner in the Cultural District. This time, we decide to dine at Nine On Nine, a restaurant we have not revisited since March 2013. Here's what we enjoyed:
The amazing Snap Old Fashioned I enjoyed 2+ years ago is no longer on the cocktail list so I decided on a glass of chenin blanc while SP tried The Art of Cucumber cocktail (gin, cynar, ginger beer). It was served in a copper mug. He really liked it. I  tried a sip and hated it because I hate gin. I had hoped the ginger flavor would overpower the gin, but, nope. Not for a gin hater like me.
The bread is still delicious. No Irish Soda Bread this time  but a delicious bread with cheese & jalapeno and 2 brown breads I cannot clearly remember, probably because I used them to mop up all the salad goodness on our salad plates. 
We shared two salads: Heirloom Tomatoes & Burrata (zucchini chips, micro basil, sumac, saba, avocado oil) and Compressed Watermelon (Valbresa feta, ice wine vinegar, chocolate mint, shaved onion).
I am not sure which I liked better. The heirloom tomatoes were flavorful & juicy, the burrata deliciously creamy, and the watermelon was so bright and juicy with terrific feta that was not super crumbly (a good thing). We cleaned the plates. 
For his entree, SP chose Lancaster Peking Duck Breast (blackberry gastrique, pistachio butter, heirloom carrots, couscous). The duck looked a little more cooked than I usually see in restaurants, but I was sitting kind of far away (it was a longer than normal 2 person table) and he assured me it was juicy and delicious. 
I opted for Diver Scallops (Memphis barbeque, pork latke, caramelized rum pineapple, chive oil, snow pea). The scallops were nicely seared and cooked but somehow, the pork latke was the standout to me! Just a shredded pork latke, but there was, if I remember correctly, a nice warm cinnamon flavor and it was just oh so good. I really liked this dish.
 We both opted for decaf coffee after dinner.
Somehow we ended up with 3 desserts due to some kind of miscommunication. The one we definitely ordered and received was the Foret Noire (dark chocolate mousse, cherry, bittersweet chocolate ganache disk, chocolate sablé). It was not as rich/dense as I expected. The mousse was chocolaty and light and the sablé soft enough to easily cut with a fork. Really, really good dessert, the way I like my chocolate desserts these days.

There was a couple seated next to us in the far back corner. We arrived around the same time, we both had seen Jersey Boys, and our meals were roughly the same pace. So we both were selecting dessert around the same time. In addition to a dessert menu, a server brings a tray with each dessert for you to see. First, they looked at the tray, then the server swiveled and we got a better look. I could swear she said this was the cheesecake, but it is actually Le Sensation (white chocolate mousse, lemon créme, lemon-almond dacquoise): 
We thought the photo below was Le Sensation but it was Creamy Pear Cheesecake (poached pear cheesecake, chocolate-praline biscuit, pear gelée médaillon, vanilla glaze). We ordered Le Sensation based on menu written description but based on tray appearance & verbal description, we thought it was this creamy dome and the creamy dome looked yummier to me. So when we were served the dessert with the orange dollops on top, we were confused. Our neighbors ordered the cheesecake and when they received the creamy dome, they thought they had the wrong dessert, so we assumed our desserts had gotten mixed up. 
Nope. We had the right desserts. But in all the confusion, it ended up that we were brought another dessert for free. So we got to enjoy 3 desserts. This is one of those happy mistakes because in the end, we both liked the shimmery dome cheesecake better than the white chocolate mousse. The cheesecake was so light it was amazing. Le Sensation was good, too, I really liked the white chocolate mousse, but the lemon-almond dacquoise, while delicious, was a little heavy at this point in our meal. We just couldn't finish it.

We both enjoyed our food at Nine On Nine and all the employees we interacted with were lovely. It was a delicious, leisurely dinner. Based on price, it's not a regular dine out dinner place but more of a special occasion or after seeing a show have a nice dinner place. Definitely a place to try if you have not been there and definitely a place to which we'll return (hopefully sooner than 2.5 years between visits!).

Nine On Nine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato