One of the things I learned long ago about living in New England is that certain phrases should immediately make your “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” alarm go off. One of those is most any sentence containing both “New England” and “Barbecue”. Also up there is “New England” and “Mexican”. Really dangerous is the combination of “New England” and “Authentic Mexican” food, since, while I’ve been to the occasional good actual Mexican place (including El Rincon down in Manchester, or when they have their A game going, Gusanoz, although for the latter I usually need to budget extra for the extra margarita I’ll need to wash down the bad service), usually I find an “Authentic” place to be dismal Tex-Mex at best, sub-Old El Paso at worse. But every once in a while I do stumble across a place that’s actually putting in a good effort, and not just dishing out queso-flavored disappointment. So, on that note, I introduce you to El Rodeo.
You know, I get a lot of odd requests in life. One of the odder ones in recent history was, “Hey, can you send me a bunch of photos I can use for a training funeral?”. Since yes, among the various colorful people I know are not only legislators, lawyers, professors, Lords, and actual rocket scientists, but funeral home directors as well. My answer was, of course, sure. I assembled an eclectic selection of photos of myself (you know, like the one with the horse mask, or the bathtub one, or the creepy cowboy one) and thus, the legend of Paul Crawford was born, a man who bears a shocking resemblance to myself, but, alas, departed this world late last year. Sniff. It’s like I know the guy. In any case, part of the deal was that I would get pie (dutifully delivered via Fedex), and, if I found myself in Florida, dinner. Thus, on a somewhat recent trip to Daytona for testing at Embry-Riddle, I found myself with an opportunity to meet up with my friend Leslie, have a nice dinner at De La Vega with her and her husband, and raise a glass in memory of poor Paul Crawford.
The last stop of my Bermondsey food and beer tour with Krista from Passport Delicious was a stop just north of the Maltby Street Market at Josẽ on Bermondsey Street. Josẽ is one of the three restaurants of Spanish restaurateur Josè Pizarro, and it’s the least formal: a casual tapas bar/eatery with a fairly nice laid back vibe. Settling in, we got a nice Rioja and started looking over the chalkboard list of tapas items.
Our last few days in London were primarily dedicated to knocking a few more items off of our to-do list. One of those has been on the list for a rather long time. Waaay back in 2009, I bought some tickets for the (long defunct) Menu For Hope blog fundraiser, and ended up winning a gourmet tour of London from a blog called Londelicious that I was going to do later in the year. Well, several things happened… First, Krista ended up moving from London back to Chicago, and several attempts for her to have someone else do the tour in her place fell through. Then, at one point I thought I might cross paths with her after she moved back to Chicago (and renamed her blog Passport Delicious)… at which point she then moved back to the UK. We basically just gave up on the idea, until last year, both her and I were both actually in London at the same time, so we managed to actually finally meet up. Since I rather like beer, she offered up a tour along the Bermondsey Beer Mile. One of the more interesting things about London’s rail network is that several segments of it were done as elevated viaducts. Due to the stone construction, that means arches. A lot of arches. Originally, they were considered undesirable rental spaces, but they are in surprisingly high demand now, and in some areas, trendy. Like in Bermonsdey, where the Viaduct coming from London Bridge Station makes for several continuous miles of arches. Part of this is now the “Bermondsey Beer Mile”, since there are more than a few breweries located in the arches, including Kernel, Brew by Numbers, Southwark Brewing Company, and Anspach and Hobday. But another part of it is the Malsby Street Market; during the week it’s basically lumber storage, but on the weekends it becomes a hopping food market. Anchoring all of this is one actual permanent restaurant: 40 Maltby, where we stopped for snacks.
One of the items that had been on my “England To-do” list for several years is to actually visit Bletchley Park, and to be honest, The Imitation Game actually lit a fire under me to make it a priority this trip. So near the end of our visit, we took a day trip by train up to Bletchley, and had a thoroughly pleasant visit to Bletchley Park (which has been nicely refurbished in recent years after decades of mild neglect). If you at all like encryption and “spy stuff”, it’s quite a nice destination: Enigma machines, decryption “Bombes”, and the like. Bletchley Park And like just about any National Heritage site I’ve been to in England, there seem to be two rules about these sorts of places: they are expected to have some sort of cafeteria, and the cafeteria must serve up a particularly dismal rendition of traditional English fare. So after seeing a few tourists noshing on some limp fish and chips with questionable-looking mushy peas, we instead decided to walk back towards Bletchley, and around a half klick down the road, we came across the rather pleasant Eight Belles.
Heading back towards the Golders Green tube station, we passed Likya, a pleasant Turkish ocakbasi restaurant just a few doors down the way. Like a lot of ocakbasi (“Grill”) restaurants, especially in London, Likya puts their large grill right up front, so as you walk by you are tempted by all the delicious meats and vegetables getting grilled up right in front of you. In this case, it was enough to get us to head right in.
While I try to keep much of my Offbeat Eating, well, “offbeat”, sometimes it’s good to go back to old favorites. And since a trip of our up to the RAF London museum had use out in the northwestern suburbs of London, that meant a side shopping trip for my brother to pick up bagels. You see, growing up in the Kaszeta household, one of the more holy culinary traditions is that Sunday mornings were typically celebrated with toasted bagels. So when my brother moved off to London, he found himself with the occasional craving for a good toasted bagel. Which actually is a bit of a challenge in London. Sure, those that are somewhat aware of the culinary scene in London are already going, “But there is Beigel Bake on Brick Lane!”, but, just like the spelling of “beigel” differs from “bagel”, the product itself varies, mostly due to the different culinary adventures the baked good has had along its various Yiddish voyages to New York, Montreal, or London. Don’t get me wrong, I rather like a good salt beef beigel from Beigel Bake, loaded up with delicious beef and hot English mustard. But the beigel itself is a bit more bready and less chewy than my expectations for a “bagel”…
One of the nice things about visiting London is that it is one of those metropolitan cities that still has a real Chinatown (well, like most any Chinatown, it is in constant flux and has a mixed history, like how it’s also the home of some of the French historical sites, like the Church of Notre Dame De France), and that means a chance for dim sum. This wasn’t our first London Chinatown dim sum foray (that being New World Chinese a few years back), but more than a few of London’s more reputable review sites all age that Imperial China is the ne plus ultra of London dim sum joints (hey, I can use French, it’s literally across the street from the French church!). So when my brother and I wanted to take my parents out for a Sunday dinner after church, we wandered over to Chinatown to check out Imperial China.
While my parents were still visiting in London, my brother decided it would be pleasant to take them on a day trip, so we all hopped on a train and headed down to West Sussex to visit the town of Chichester. Like York on one of our previous visits, Chichester is pretty neat since it dates back to Roman times, still maintaining the basic Roman-era street layout and outer walls. And, like most any English city of its size, it’s now got a cathedral (Chichester Cathedral is pretty unusual in that while it has a bell tower, the bell tower is a separate building) and a Market Cross. But after a morning roaming about checking out the cathedral, gardens, and the wall of the city, we met up with everyone and had a pleasant lunch at Amelie and Friends.
During our visit to the UK, my parents were also visiting as part of their 50th anniversary celebration (sorry it took so long to write this one up, folks…). My brother and I decided to take them (and our aunt) out for a nice family outing, so we opted for a trip to the Kew Gardens area, having a nice dinner at The Glasshouse followed by a walk in the Gardens.