Friday, July 30, 2010

Yakitori Yumminess!


On Thursday I experienced one of the most interesting, innovative meals I have ever partaken in at Bincho Yakitori on Old Compton Street in Soho.

Yes, I can safely say that at aged 26 (just...) I have now eaten a whole chicken. All of it. On a stick. Namely:

Torisashi - chicken sashimi with ponzu & chives
Negima - corn fed chicken with spring onion
Sasami Yuzu Kosho - chicken breast fillet with yuzu pepper
Sori Shio - salt grilled chicken oysters
Leba - chicken liver
Kawa - chicken skin
Sunazuri - chicken gizzard
Hatsu - chicken heart
Tsukune - minced chicken with raw egg yolk
Nankotsu - chicken soft bone
Seseri - chicken neck
Tebasaki - chicken wing
Bonjiri - chicken tail

We were even each given a 'yakitori autopsy' map of a chicken, pinpointing the different parts we were eating! I am just glad that they didn't serve us up chicken feet, because I would not have wanted to eat them, but would have had to, just for curiosity's sake...

Amongst the five courses of yakitori (which is essentially Japanese skewers cooked on coals) we were also served a delicious baby spinach with yuba and bacon salad, mizuna salad, white miso soup, edamame, fried chicken, buttered garlic rice (yum), mixed Japanese vegetable rice, and to complete the meal, green tea ice cream.

This was all washed down with regular sake, old school sake, unfiltered sake and plum wine. The drinks were flowing, and honestly I had never really appreciated sake before this meal, but they all tasted good, and were paired expertly with the food courses.

The evening started off with chit chat and champagne by the bar, at which point I had no idea of the feast that awaited me. The restaurant is very stylish and modern in its decor, but also very comfortable, with low lighting and a relaxed atmosphere. It would serve as the perfect place to go on a date, or with a few friends for a night out.

Now, back to the culinary sensation that is yakitori. I'm adventurous with my food, but I'll admit, when I heard there was going to be chicken sashimi, I was skeptical (*cough* salmonella *cough*) but as it turns out, it ended up being one of my favourite items on the menu! It was not how I imagined it would be, as I mostly felt that the texture and thickness of the meat would be unappetising, when it was actually very tiny portions of thinly sliced chicken, seared on the edges, wrapped around chives. It was so yummy!

I also really enjoyed the chicken liver (which a lot of people were not keen on) and the chicken skin (probably not the most diet friendly option, but tasty, nonetheless) which actually seemed to be a favourite amongst most people.

Nearly everything was delicious (and the food just kept coming) apart from the gizzards and the gristle (soft bone). The texture was just too tough and bleeeeuuuuuuuuuuurrrrghhhhhhhh for me.

The staff were very friendly and helpful, explaining what each of the dishes were, and the presentation was impeccable.

This event was organised by the lovely, hardworking team at Yelp London, meaning that everything was free, which was the icing on the cake....or, er, the chicken on the egg...?!

After a bit more champers and a lot more chatting, I headed home, my tummy full and my head happy....when I saw this in front of me on the tube...

More denim, less knee please!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Purrrrrrrrrfect Saturday!

Wow, I think I am still tired from Saturday's shenanigans...

My day started out with a 'body pump' class at the gym (a full body workout using barbells) which was probably setting me up for exhaustion before the day had even begun - and believe me, the all-encompassing aches and pains that resulted from this class were with me for the next couple of days!

So with the promise of an afternoon of picnics, I set out to (finally) meet up with a friend who recently moved to London from NYC. I'm glad that the amount of times we tried and failed to meet up in the past few weeks have finally come to an end! Unfortunately the two picnics we had planned on attending turned out to be less promising than we had originally thought, so after travelling to Green Park, then to Hyde Park, in the end we decided to give up on parklife and head to Camden for roof garden drinkies. Here, we soaked up the sun and most likely offended the people sitting near to us with our x-rated conversation topics, before heading over to bar Zensai for their weekly rockabilly happy hour.

Admittedly, a bar named 'zensai' is probably not one you would immediately think synonymous with a crackin' rockabilly club, but if you head down on a Saturday between 4-8pm (the crowd tends to arrive around 6-6.30pm) you get to listen to awesome music and drink delicious 2-for-1 cocktails (go for the Old Cuban - rum, mint, lime and champagne!) either inside, or out front, where the music is played through outdoor speakers.

Here we met with a friend of mine who was visiting from San Francisco (I do have English friends too, I promise...) and enjoyed the sunshine whilst sipping on aforementioned Old Cubans followed by some kind of watermelon cocktail.

Now although the music was spot on, the dancefloor was empty (most likely because everyone was too busy partaking in drinkie time out front - me included) so post Zensai, I was ready to slip into my dancing shoes (or, at least, I would have been, had I actually thought to bring my dance shoes with me when I left the house that morning - as it was, though, I had to settle for the granny Worishofer sandals I was wearing). Onwards and upwards the night led to The Cat's Meow near London Bridge for dancing and a performance by Pete G and The Magnitones.

Run by The London Swing Cats, this monthly night definitely satisfied my dance craving. It's a great little dancefloor, and Guy's Bar is actually one of the campus bars for the university I graduated from, King's College London.

This night gets a great mix of people of all ages, with djs playing a selection of swing, jump jive, boogie, rhythm & blues, as well as two performances by a band.

I had so many fun dances, and in fact it was probably the best night out dancing that I've had since I left San Francisco. That is until the 'blood on the dance floor' incident...*Shudder*....

Never, in the six years that I have been dancing have I ever scratched someone mid-dance, but this was the night that I managed to not just scratch this poor guy, but I actually scratched him on his face and made him bleed! I didn't realise that he was bleeding until after the dance (yes, he carried on dancing until the end of the song, like a trooper) at which point I felt SO guilty that I couldn't bring myself to dance for the next thirty minutes or so. The strange thing about it, is that my nails were not even particularly long (I tend to keep them pretty short at all times) and frankly, I just don't know how my hand got into such a position where it scratched across his face like that. In any case, he was very gracious and understanding about it, but despite the fact that it was an accident, I still felt awful about it.

After retracting my claws for the night (meoooow) and sitting out a number of tunes, it was the sound of Lonely Teardrops that finally made my feet happy again. I absolutely adore that song, and frankly, scratch or no scratch, it is impossible for me not to get up and dance when Jackie Wilson's heart is cryin' cryin'...

By 12.30am I was exhausted from a full day and night on the go. I felt like I could have fallen asleep right there and then, but thankfully didn't. Instead, looking like a drowned rat after a night of energetic dancing, I managed to get my feet moving, and took a moment to admire a classic Rover parked out front, before we headed to Brick Lane for a late night snack of salt beef bagels. So. Delicious. I love salt beef bagels at the best of times, but since I hadn't eaten since my lunch at 12.30pm, I was STARVING!!!

After throwing a nice strong cup of tea into the mix, I was satisfied and ready to go home and Skype with loverboy a little bit, before passing out. Which I did. Little did I know that 'body pump' would come back to haunt every muscle in my body when I awoke the next morning.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BRAIN waves goodbye...

Until the end of March 2010, I worked as a Web Editor on the BRAIN community website for three and a half years. I really enjoyed my time working on the website, not only because it felt worthwhile being involved in doing something beneficial to the community as a whole, but also because I made great friends with my colleagues.

Due to lack of funding, my position working on the website ended, and so I embarked on my Californian adventure for three months. Although I no longer work on the website, now that I am back in the London borough of Brent, I have been checking BRAIN for events and happenings in the area. So I was very sad to hear, that as of the 24th of September 2010, the website will be closing down.

This is a big loss for the community, and it is a shame that after twelve years of hard work and dedication, building up a useful free resource for everyone in the borough, this tool will no longer be available.

As well as providing a directory of local businesses and community groups, the website also has a diary of events taking place in the borough, daily news articles, interviews, chat forums, photo albums and videos of Brent based art and events, the BRAINwaves monthly newsletter, and regular safety information from the Fire Brigade and Metropolitan Police - to name just a few features.

To me and the rest of the BRAIN team, past and present, this really is the end of an era.

Article on BRAIN and press release from Brent Council.

I carried a watermelon...?!

As I tackle my post-America health and fitness regime with renewed vigour, along with lifting weights at Willesden Sports Centre, today I also picked up a watermelon - and it was heavy!

What summer would be complete without carrying a watermelon (and eating it) at least once? Hmmmm?

I love that along with the sunshine, the summer also brings with it, a wide range of fruits, and I for one, relish the opportunity to feast on a variety of sweet and juicy berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, melons and so on.

I remember when I was a child, I always used to go strawberry picking with my parents during the summer, and for every strawberry that I would put into the basket, I would also eat one. I haven't been for many years now, but I would quite like to go again at some point, and I would definitely recommend it as a fun summertime activity if you haven't done it before. It could also be quite a unique and romantic date...strawberry picking, followed by feeding each other the fruits yielded from your afternoon together, accompanied by a bottle of champagne....just a thought.

Here is a demonstration of how to achieve a watermelanie smile....

So, in the words of Baby, in my all time favourite movie, Dirty Dancing: "I carried a watermelon." Unfortunately it was not followed by any up-close-and-personal dancing (read: grinding) with a gorgeous man...or with anyone for that matter. However, it was followed up by eating, and it was delicious. Nom nom nom....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kilburn takes a bite out of the Big Sandwich...

I got very excited last week, when I found out that Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys and Carlos & The Bandidos were playing in London on Saturday. I was even more excited to hear that they were playing in my neighbourhood, at The Luminaire in Kilburn.

The show started relatively early, with Carlos & The Bandidos taking to the stage at around 8.30pm. I thought their set was fun, and they won me over with their gun-popping, sombrero-wearing mayhem. I love a band with a theme and matching costumes, and the fact that theirs is Mexican makes me like them even more....mmmm guacamole....

The band were energetic and I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Ray Charles' Unchain My Heart, although in terms of hitting the dance floor, their style is not really as danceable as Big Sandy's - however, saying that, nobody danced all night anyway, so I suppose this point is irrelevant to the situation in case!

Now, The Lumi is great, because it is a nice small venue (but not too small) with great sound, so the shows here are intimate, but with enough space to fit in a good crowd with everyone getting a decent vantage point.

It was immediately apparent that everyone was very excited to see Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, and it was indeed a treat to have them come to Kilburn. But what was nice, was that the whole band also seemed genuinely happy to be there, and ended up putting on a super long show that lasted around two hours.

The band were on top form, and played a sublime set, effortlessly. Their sound was tight and Big Sandy's voice was sweet, and whilst the performance was filled with jokes and banter, they played their music with such ease and experience.

Big Sandy heard tequila calling - and indeed it was, as a couple of his friends in the audience kept plying the band with shots throughout the show! Clearly as professional with their shot drinking as with their music playing, they knocked them back without any apparent effect on their performance...

I have to admit, although I have seen the band a few times now, this was the first time that I actually stood and watched them the whole way through, as on previous occassions, I have always been busy dancing along to the music. As much as I enjoyed watching them, my feet were itching to dance, to the point of pain at hearing such fun danceable music!!!

Mid-set, two members of the audience took to the stage, taking over on guitar and double bass. These two, were in fact Boz (guitarist for The Polecats and Morrissey, to name a couple) and Lyn Boorer, and you can check out their performance in this great video that someone captured at the show:

Amongst the excitement, there was also a hen night in full effect, and the bride-to-be was invited up on stage and serenaded, appropriately, with Here Comes The Bride. What an awesome hen night (or 'bachelorette party' to my American counterparts)!

At the top of my 'most amusing moments' of the gig though, was when one of the band's friends in the audience (I think her name was Sally?) leaned over the edge of the stage during their last song, and proceeded to tuck their trousers into their cowboy boots! Hahahah! They kept on playing, and she kept on tucking, so that by the end, Fly-Rite guitarist, Ashley Kingman, and Big Sandy himself had their boots on full display. Reading this does not sound as funny as watching it, but in any case, it tickled me seeing them all dapper in their suits and then looking down to see their trousers clumsily protruding from their footwear.

Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys will be back in the UK to play at Rhythm Riot in November, but hopefully I will get to go back to California and see one of their shows before then....fingers crossed....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fame and fashion!

A few weeks ago, when I was walking down Valencia during Mission Streets, I was approached to feature in the street fashion photo blog, Fashionist.

As well as being photographed by Mai for her site, my friends started taking pictures too, and I have to say, I took to posing for this paparazzi mob like a duck to water...

It's really interesting to see how people express themselves through their style, and there are lots of great outfits - all completely different - featured on the blog. I love how creative people get with their clothes and accessories to come up with their own unique look.

I'm famous! Check me out on Fashionist!

Take a look at who else catches Mai's eye at

I want to learn balboa...Quick! Quick!

Balboa, I will dominate you, and make you MINE!!!

For the past year I have been saying that I want to learn balboa, but every week, when Wednesday night came around, I was always too tired and lazy after work, and then over the winter months it was too cold for me to brave the snow and minus degree temperatures, especially when my bed was so comfy...

Then I told myself that during my three month trip to San Francisco, I would have no excuses, and that I would take the opportunity to come back to London with a new dance under my belt...


Now I'm back in London, the weather is great, I'm currently unemployed and I have no excuses. So last night I finally made it to The Quick! Quick! Club for my second ever balboa lesson, and I loved it!

The Quick! Quick! Club takes place every Wednesday night at Peter Parker's Rock 'n' Roll Club, located on Denmark Street in Central London. A little trivia for you - this club was, in a previous life, the Regent Sound Studios, where The Rolling Stones recorded their first album and The Kinks recorded 'You Really Got Me'. Wicked.

There is both a basics and an improvers class with a dance freestyle afterwards that goes on until midnight. The classes are taught by the very stylish Paul Crook and Natasha Hall, who teach the moves in a clear and comfortable manner. The atmosphere is really relaxed, and the bar itself, although small, is spacious enough - in fact, a small club such as this demonstrates the effectiveness of a dance style with a close embrace. Additionally, there are old movies projected on to the walls, to entertain you if you're taking a break from the dancing.

I love how smooth and subtle this dance looks and I enjoy watching people alternating between swing or lindy and balboa in the course of a song. It looks so stylish, and helpfully, provides an opportunity for a little breather during the faster numbers...which I would love, given that I normally end up a sweaty mess when I'm out dancing!

Now that I have started up with the classes, I am determined to stick to it and master this dance! It can be a bit frustrating, because I always want to be good at things straight away, but this is going to take some practice. The added incentive is that my boyfriend can dance balboa already, so hopefully we will be able to dance it together soon...

I'll keep you updated on my progress, but until then, here's a clip of Paul and Natasha dancing at Southbank:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Swing dance picnic!

This past warm and sunny Sunday was the perfect day for a swing dance picnic in Regent's Park, so armed with a blanket, a bottle of cider and two boxes of strawberries, I headed over to the park to dance the day away next to the boating lake.

Coincidentally a few of my non-dancer girlfriends were also going on a picnic in Regent's Park that afternoon, and so we all met up, which was great because I got my girly gossip fix, as well as my dance fix!

There was a good turn out, and as well as dancing, we were all treated to a ukelele sing-a-long to Sweet Georgia Brown which was super fun!

After the sounds of uke, everyone took part in a riddle word quiz before learning a group folk dance, both of which were a little confusing at first...but we got the hang of it in the end, and had a lot of laughs along the way!

I love al fresco dancing, and it's wonderful that it stays light until around 10pm, so you don't feel like you are hanging around a park at night like a teenager who isn't old enough to go to an actual club...

Whilst it is a little tricky cutting some rug when you're on grass, the area that we were using was kind of dry and flattened which made it a bit easier. It did however, mean that a lot of dusty, dry soil was floating about, which made my feet sooooooo dirty!

I finally left the park at around 7.30pm so that I could get home in time to catch the end of the World Cup final. Numbers had dwindled by this point, as a lot of people went to watch the match, or for whatever other reasons, but there were still quite a few people, who, I heard, kept on dancing until around 9pm.

I decided that as it was such a nice evening I would walk a part of the way home. In the end though, a combination of a) wanting to take the opportunity to burn some extra calories and b) just missing my bus by seconds, meant that I decided to walk all the way home from the park. It took me around 1 hour and 25 minutes and it was really pleasant, but I did end up with a HUGE blister on my heel (despite wearing my comfy, granny-style orthopaedic sandals), which made it painful trying to walk the next day...

The swing dance picnic is taking place in Regent's Park one Sunday a month over the summer (I wish it was twice a month!) and weather permitting, I will definitely be back next month!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mother-Daughter Magyar Nyár

It's been a little while since my last blog entry, because I have been away on holiday in Hungary where I did not have access to wireless internet. I was only really able to quickly go online once a day, and whilst I was at the Balaton, not at all. This sporadic access to my gmail and facebook was kind of torturous, and has highlighted to me just how reliant I am upon being able to freely surf the interwebs. A friend of mine pointed out that it was like I had gone to rehab for 10 days....except it didn't cure me - I am still addicted.

So anyway, I'm back in London now, and I'm ready to start my post-holiday diet and job search! (Note the use of exclamation mark in order to sound upbeat, when in this case, it is in fact equal to 'sigh'). But first, more about my hols...

I used to go to Hungary every summer throughout my childhood and for the majority of my teenage years (I'm half Hungarian), but prior to this trip it had been around 9 years since I was last there. I love Hungary in the summer because it gets HOT (over 30c), and I can prove this with the super tan I have come back with!

Now, down to one of the most important matters: delicious food. Ahead of the trip, I had said to myself, these are the things I want to eat during my stay:

1) Meggyes rétes (sour cherry strudel)
2) Lángos (a type of deep fried doughy bread that you can cover with garlic, sour cream and cheese)
3) Pogácsa (a savoury puff pastry scone)
4) Túró Rudi (a chocolate bar filled with soft cheese that is kind of like a cross between quark and cottage cheese - it is used in many sweet dessert type dishes).

I can safely say, that I ate all of these things at least once, although I developed a slight pogácsa addiction, and ended up eating them nearly every day...

It was great being back after all this time, although it was quite frustrating that whilst I could understand most things, my spoken Hungarian had become a little rusty. After a few days though, I got back into the swing of things and it became a lot easier to have a conversation, except, unfortunately, my sarcasm gets lost in translation. Those that know me will understand how it pains me not to be able to chat freely with unlimited humorous interjections about....well, everything.

My amazing mum treated me to this holiday, and we stayed at my cousin's house in Budapest for the majority of the time, but then also went down to the lake Balaton for a couple of days. I pretty much spent both days at Balatongyörök in my bikini reading on the balcony, and at night we played scrabble. It was lovely and relaxing, although, there was no internet at the house, and as previously mentioned, it nearly drove me insane!

On the last morning by the lake, I woke up at around 5am, and watched the most beautiful sunrise, from a rocking chair on the balcony - it was so breathtaking, and definitely worth abandoning sleep for...

The architecture is so beautiful in Budapest that I ended up taking hundreds of photos of buildings. The Szent István Bazilika is the largest church in Hungary and it is absolutely spectacular. It was also the setting for one of the funniest moments of the trip. My mum was walking around inside the church and had just knelt down on a prayer bench when her phone started to ring with the Dom Joly ringtone. It took all my strength to keep from laughing too loud, and I just kept hoping for a live 'Trigger Happy TV' reenactment, where my mum would answer the phone and shout "HELLO? I'M IN A CHURCH....A CHURCH....YEAH, I'M PRAYING!....NO, IT'S RUBBISH! CIAO!"

My last full day in Budapest was spent at the Széchenyi fürdő which is a beautiful spa with outdoor baths. It was wonderful to spend the whole day relaxing in the sunshine, alternating between laying out in the sun, and hopping between the hot bath, the cooler bath (which has jacuzzi jets at various points) and the swimming pool.

One of the baths has two circular sections in the middle of it, which people can sit on the edge of. On the very inside of the circle is a jacuzzi and between the inner circle and the outer circle the water is like a whirlpool that drags you around! So fun! Adults and kids alike went into the whirpool thingy and as funny as it was being pulled around by the force of the water it was even funnier watching people bumping into each other and squealing as they grabbed onto the wall trying to stop themselves being swept around!

Other memorable moments from this holiday included:

Going swing dancing on the Europa boat, as the sun was setting, and into the night, with two floors of freestyle dancing, as well as numerous dance performances....

A trip to an all-you-can-eat buffet (this included all-you-can-drink champers) for my mum's birthday, where, at the end, they brought her out a cake which had the mother of all sparklers in it (this thing was practically a firework) and she was really surprised!

Wandering around the city, taking in all the sights...

Eating numerous ices creams, which included flavours such as mango, caramel, apple, coconut, apricot...

This was a fab holiday, and it was great getting to spend time with my mum after being away in San Francisco for three months. I saw so many beautiful places and took sooooo many photos on this holiday that I have come away with lots of wonderful memories...