Booze & Beverages, Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Brunch at Boot & Shoe Service, Oakland, California.

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I think we need to sit down and have a serious conversation about brunch. Isn’t it just breakfast? Who eats breakfast before 11am? Who eats breakfast without cocktails? Who even eats breakfast? Why? Why do you do that?

Brunch in Oakland really got me thinking about brunch. Halfway through my first Bloody Mary, surrounded by the hum of a brunch service in full swing, I had a revelation. I suddenly felt like – writer to writer – I could have a serious conversation with Carrie Bradshaw. About brunch. I feel like that chick nailed brunch back in the ’90s and there’s a lot I could learn from her.

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We went to Boot & Shoe, in Oakland for brunch, because what’s the golden rule? Always eat where your buddy works. I really think we should all go and get that tattooed on ourselves so we never forget. I also think it’s a great sign that Brett still chooses to dine at work on his days off. I work in a bookshop, but on my days off I go to browse in bookshops elsewhere, capish?

Anyway, back to brunch. We started off with a round of Bloody Marias/Marys, garnished with celery stalks, queen green olives and pickled green beans. Incidentally, I love the above photo of Natalie. She looks like she has a big leafy green beard.

P1030512Brett and Brendon ordered for us and we shared each dish, tapas-style. Is this normal brunch behaviour? As a brunch novice, I’m not sure. I’m not particularly bothered as any other method of brunching is clearing incorrect as this way, we got to try half the menu. Interesting fact: Chrome’s internal spell check highlighted tapas but not the verb form of brunch, which I thought I had made up. Anyway, we started with crispy fried potatoes slathered in crème fraîche and spring onions.

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Next, we indulged in warm beignets served with a sticky strawberry compote. The beignets were smaller and more delicate than their New Orleanian counterparts, and they were dusted in a cinnamon sugar that made each one taste like a little snickerdoodle pillow of joy. I love the boys’ hands hovering in the background – their eager paws stalking the beignets are living proof that sharing plates with a snap-happy food blogger is…

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Next up, we had this little beauty: fried farro and heirloom tomatoes, topped with parmesan shavings and a fried egg. Look at that plate. There are seven ingredients in that dish – farro, red onion, tomatoes, parmesan, egg, parsley and butter. It was absolutely mesmerising – the saltiness of the butter, the tangy fresh tomato and the creaminess of the egg combined to rock my world, one bite at a time. I’d never had farro before and honestly, it was like discovering quinoa all over again. Farro is a grain, chunkier than rice and more toothsome than giant couscous. What really struck me about this dish – and god, I’m sorry for yawning on, but it really is worth talking about – was the strength of the individual ingredients. There’s something really brassy about charging $16 for such a simple dish, but the strength and quality of the ingredients justified the price tag.

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Margarita pizza. Boot & Shoe seems to be known on the online reviewer circuit as a pizza place, but I think that’s a fairly reductive view of an exciting menu. The pizza is, however, exceptional.

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Ratatouille with wood oven toast and a poached egg. I won’t lie – I can’t remember what this tasted like, because it paled in comparison to the farro dish that I still sometimes think wistfully about over a glass of wine on a quiet Sunday night.

P1030521… but this sassy minx of a dish made me forget all about the farro (well, for a a few minutes anyway). This is pain de mie french toast topped with a white nectarine and raspberry compote. Sweet, indulgent and full of fruity flavour, it was a happiness on a plate.

P1030524I finished with a Boot & Shoe classic: gin with homemade tonic. It was sweet, with a herbal flavour and distinct quinine kick. I really want to learn how to make my own tonic, man. I almost bought a kit from Oaktown Spice Shop, but decided against it for reasons unknown. Anyway, Brett said the flavour differs between batches, depending on what the chef felt like adding to the mix that day, and this batch had a sweet aniseed flavour.

Note, Boot & Shoe don’t take reservations but it’s absolutely worth the wait – particularly if you chill with a cheeky G&T or Bloody Maria whilst you wait for your table.

Boot & Shoe Service | Website

Booze & Beverages, Veg*n London

Veg*n London: Inspiral Lounge, Camden.

I’m so into InSpiral Lounge in Camden you guys. I’ve just found out my friend Georg is coming to London soon, and that means I’ll be spending at least a couple of eyes kicking it with a black coffee on the canalside decking.

I have plenty of fond memories of chilling with Georg in that café (usually but not exclusively a bit rough around the edges and in need of wholesome vitamins and gentle music). These gorgeous hot days that we are all desperately clawing onto at the moment are perfect for dropping by to hang out languidly by the canal, coconut water in hand like the hipster I’m not.

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The menu includes exciting vegan breakfasts, including a <£5 range of “stuff on toast” like home made baked beans, fried mushrooms or scrambled tofu. Or you can really go to town and order the vegan full monty (but frankly if it doesn’t include fried bread and a strong Bloody Mary to quell the hangover I don’t see the point in fried breakfasts).

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Spanakopita is my favourite lunch: I think it’s the creaminess of the tofu filling with the sassy bite of black olive tapenade. Plus spinach is brilliant and who doesn’t love buttery (vegan) pastry?

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InSpiral is also open really late: I love sitting by the canal late into the night with a bowl of marinated olives and a beer or two (or five).

Expect some more InSpiral Lounge posts when Georg drops into town!

Booze & Beverages, Gossip, London's Best Boozers, Veg*n Events, Veg*n London

Veg*n Events: London Vegan Beerfest 2013

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So, I just bought my tickets for the London Vegan Beerfest, which is happening on Saturday July 13th in Bethnal Green.

Hosted by Fat Gay Vegan, it’s bound to be a giggle. Tickets are only £7.50 per head, and the London Vegan Beerfest promises lashings of vegan beer, a vegan BBQ, slammin’ choons (my phrasing) and, quoth Fat Gay Vegan, “fun times” (which I assume means some kind of vegan dance off).

See you there, pals.

Buy Tickets.

Booze & Beverages, London's Best Boozers

London’s Best Boozers: Bubblebath Cocktails at Lounge Bohemia

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If you find yourself negotiating your way between the hipsters of Shoreditch, I suggest you whip out your smartphone and book an appointment at Lounge Bohemia. Tucked beneath a kebab shop, via an unmarked door, you’ll fine a little underground haven of mood lighting and imaginative cocktails. After a (meat, pesci & veggie) nibble, you can – and I shit you not – drink a BUBBLEBATH MARTINI. It contains lychee liqueur blended with lavender and poppy seed vodka, topped with lychee, lavender and rose bubbles. And a rubber duckie. Some of the other “manipulative mixology” cocktails included the very unvegan sounding “leather infused courvoisier”, or you might prefer an Old Castro, which includes Havana rum infused with a Cuban cigar and topped with vanilla candy floss.

Booze & Beverages, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Booze in New Orleans

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New Orleans is one of my most beloved cities. I have a vague aim to hit Mardis Gras in 2014, to hang out in the street, catch the parade and get shit-faced with my girl Nisha. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, and I had a nice little 4am drunk dial from Nisha to remind me that it was party time in NOLA. Needless to say, I slept through it but still felt the love in my slumbering heart (sorry bb).

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Mardis Gras seems to be about booze for breakfast, to set a precedent for the rest of the day, so I thought I’d write about three boozy beverages I enjoyed necking in New Orleans. Abita is a locally brewed beer perfect for swigging in the late afternoon sunshine. During the spring, strawberry and raspberry varieties are available, brewed with fresh seasonal fruit.


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“Have a hand grenade, New Orleans’ most powerful drink.” Don’t mind if I do. Confession: we drank three one night and I nearly died and that’s that. Classy, eh?  I’d like to say I was channelling some Mardis Gras spirit but actually those green slushy drinks are just killer and I’m a weakling Brit used to carefully measured 35ml shots.

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This was breakfast one day: a pineapple daiquiris slushy slurped from a huge polystyrene cup.

Booze & Beverages

Veg*n London: Coach & Horses, Soho.

P1010491My girl Nisha: cooking partner, fellow vegetarian and friend for life. I miss her loads since she flew back to her home town of New Orleans. Before she left, we had lunch at Soho’s first vegetarian pub: the Coach & Horses on Greek Street, Soho. The veggie lunch menu is crammed with delicious veggie versions of standard pub grub – bangers and mash, lasagne, burgers, salads, fish and chips – along with a selection of creative veggie dishes and a modest handful of vegan option

P1010493Oh yeah! A British classic: fish and chips. This was proper hangover pub grub: battered tofu (“tofush” – not the snappiest title ever but it’ll do), chips and peas with a slice of lemon and a squirt of ketchup. The tofu was pressed and wrapped in a sheet of nori before dunked in an ale-based batter and deep fried. The nori gave it a curiously fishy aesthetic and tang, although the tofu itself was otherwise unflavoured. Based on the current menu on the website, however, it looks like Norman – chef? owner? – has upped his game: the peas are now “crushed and minted”, and the chips are “root vegetable chips” rather than standard frozen French fries.

P1010496My stupid face eating my stupidly huge plate of deep fried carbs (and peas). The primary purpose of this photo is to demonstrate the kitsch cake stands and hip mirrors in the background of the tea room.

Anyway, the main thing is that we could still get pissed.

Booze & Beverages

Friday’s Nip: Fireball Whiskey

A friend and I went for lunch in Soho recently. One thing to another and suddenly it was 8pm and I was in the Pillars of Hercules staring into the smooth golden depths of a glass of Fireball Whiskey. It’s a cinnamon and whiskey blended liquor that tastes like a pecan pie fucked a Snickerdoodle cookie after three quarters of a bottle of JD.

Soundtrack: Dead Man’s Bones – Lose Your Soul.

Booze & Beverages, Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

Boozing Around the World: Champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower

I don’t trust people that claim to dislike champagne. The crisp dryness, the snide little bubbles, the way the first extra-cold sip makes everyone pull a bitch-face: it’s the perfect smug celebratory drink. Drinking a glass from a plastic champagne flute on top of the Eiffel Tower is like smoking a joint in Amsterdam: it’s completely unnecessary but you might as well once you’re there.

Soundtrack: The Skints – Rise Up.

Booze & Beverages

Friday’s Nip: Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Halloween means two things in the realm of real ale: Hobgoblin start cracking out their special pumpkin labels, and it feels appropriate to drink a bottle of Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale. Apart from rocking an awesome seasonal label, it has a great blend of vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, clove and pumpkin. Boozy pumpkin pie in a bottle? Yes. I found this bottle at the Euston Tap