Category Archives: Travel

Great British Food

My first impression of British food came from watching The Two Fat Ladies while I still lived in Hong Kong. Despite being a British colony and having British influence on its culture and food, it was the TV episodes that gave me the impression of what British food would be like: rich butter, stews, game, fresh egg from the farm, the cloudy sky and green pasture…

Later, work took me to numerous trips to London where I would go out with office mates to pubs, Kebab places, Michelin starred restaurants, hotel establishments. And my impression was… rich, filling, bland food, but can’t compare to Hong Kong or New York (by then I have moved back to New York) unless it’s a really fancy restaurant. It’s also much more expensive. I know there are all these celebrity chefs from UK such as Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and  I have eaten at their restaurants in the US and UK, but I always felt that the neighborhood restaurants can’t compare.

Eating in London was never something to write home about for me… until a recent trip to London.

GreatBritishFood

In late April, C and I went to London for an art opening at the National Gallery with a group of people. We stayed at The Sloane Club located in Chelsea and only a few blocks away from the tube and all the shopping areas, much more convenient compare to where we would stay if we were on business trips in Canary Wharf area. The weather was beautiful, sunny, mild and never rained during our stay, plus this is not a work trip, we knew it would be a relaxing trip.

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Arrived at noon, we decided to have a light lunch around the neighborhood. A short walk from the hotel, we settled upstairs at Daylesford Organic on Pimlico Road. Daylesford Organic promotes sustainable organic farming and it has a few outposts around the city with groceries, cookery and  cafes. The decor is rustic, modern and minimal. I ordered a
freshly-baked tart of the day with two salads (bulgar wheat, parsley, mint, cucumber, lemon, garlic and toasted pine kernels; raw slaw with cashews and sticky soy ginger dressing) and a traditional lemonade. The food was simply prepared without too much manipulation and tasted great. It’s all in the fresh ingredients. All for 15 pounds, not bad! Besides food, this place has great potteries. They have a few shops in town but this one is tucked in a quiet corner in the village.

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For dinner, we went to visit our friends and their new baby in Balham and had a nice meal at Brinkley’s Kitchen. The restaurant was pretty big with nice decorations and a large open kitchen. It’s also facing the Wandsworth Common which apparently makes it a popular spot for lunch and coffee around the neighborhood.

brinkley's

My dinner included:
Appetizer: Roquefort, pear, walnut and endive salad
Slow roasted pork belly with mash, rosemary roast carrots, savoy cabbage and cider glaze
Desert: Hot toffee cake with cream or ice cream

brinkley pork belly

My friend recommended the slow cooked pork belly. It was indeed soft, rich, flavorful but not over done. The crackling pork rind was fun to eat! And of course no British meal should conclude without a nice pudding. This one has just hit the right spot. Rich, warm, sweet, balanced with vanilla ice cream and perfectly concluded the meal.

After dinner, we walked around the Commons and bid goodbye to our friends. The sky was clear and the air crisp. Six hours over the Atlantic ocean, we were in the Great Britain, leisurely strolled around town, enjoyed great time with old friends, over tasty food. We knew this would be a great trip!

 

 

 

Memorial Weekend Escape – Old Lyme and Mystic

A weekend day trip out of New York City can be hectic, but when you are less ambitious and just play by ear, it can be relaxing. The only planning is to rent a car and set a limit of how far you want to go. Getting together with like minded couple of people is key. So our group of four decided to take a day trip to the town of Old Lyme and Mystic in Connecticut on the Memorial weekend Saturday.

 

Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is a lovely small museum that is the home of American Impressionism. In the 1890s, a women named Florence Griswold decided to operate a boarding house and it just happened that one of her visitors was Henry Ward Ranger, a New York artist in search of establishing an art colony like what he discovered in Europe. What followed was his friends and fellow artists like Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf…etc. Many of the paintings were inspired by the house, its garden and the Lieutenance River that runs pass the property. Today, the museum has a new building with a rotating exhibition and a gift shop. We happen to catch the current exhibition of “…isms: Unlocking Art’s Mysteries” and enjoyed it quite a bit.

After the museum, we drove in to S & P Oyster Company for some lunch. We ordered  lobster tacos and lobster rolls to help celebrate the local annual Lobster Fest. The lobsters were nice but the highlight is to sit by the water and watch the Mystic river and the old drawbridge. After lunch, we walked around the main street a bit and dropped in some of the vintage shops and souvenir shops. For us, this quick escape outside of Manhattan was perfect!

How I plan to survive the holidays – Day One

Staying true to my 3 Things to Do to Survive This Holiday Season & Wrap Up This Year’s Resolutions!

I started my Week One – Day One. Today is all about planning.

Health

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of take-outs and I blamed it on work and not having enough time to cook. Work has been crazy busy but that’s no excuse! All it needs is a little bit of planning. This week I ordered groceries from FreshDirect and I will make more home cooked food and order less take-outs considering all the partying that’s ahead.

For Sunday night, I am making a Curried Chicken Salad(recipe) from my favorite cookbook writer Ina Garten. This recipe is creamy and light, perfect to bring to work as a lunch box or as a sandwich filling. It stores well for a few days as well.

Family, Friends, Social

I know I have a few gifts already for a roster of people, but I need to organize myself with a list and keep track of that. Recently I started to use Evernote to help with the to-do list and organizing. My criteria is to be able to use anywhere from a browser at any desktop or laptop, on my iphone and be able to take notes, pictures and web links with it. So far it’s been great.

Here I created a new Notebook called “Lists” that keeps various types of lists. Then I created a New Note in the Lists Notebook called Christmas Gifts. This is where I keep the people and gift ideas. I separated the gift list into Family, Friends and Social. For each family members, I jot down my gift idea and copy URLs next to the names. When I acquire the item, I check off the item. Since it’s synchronizing with mobile devices, it’s really easy to keep jotting down ideas and check off those shopping items. It’s a great note taking tool!

Future

This is not about the distant future, but all small steps build to the longer term future. The “Future” is all about enriching yourself, challenging yourself, enjoying yourself, relaxing, learning, discovering, building for the future. Right now, I am thinking about a do-nothing-vacation! Besides some business travels and and a couple of long weekends, I have not taken much time off. Even planning for vacation seems stressful for me… But I am taking the last two weeks of December off to relax and recuperate. So I will be gathering ideas for that do-nothing vacation and perhaps can even do it in December!

First thing first, I must consult my good friend, an ex-colleague, The Points Guy for some travel deals and advice…

Live Like A Lord For a Weekend…at Castle Combe

While I was in Cotswolds, I stayed at The Manor House at Castle Combe. Castle Combe is located on the southern edge of the Cotswolds between Bath and Chippenham. I took a train from London to Chippenham and took a 15 minutes taxi from the train station to the hotel. The manor is a wooded valley leading down to the River Bybrook. It’s fairly isolated, with only the very tiny village outside the manor house.

I heard from the staff there that the house was built in the 11th century and about twenty or so lords lived there. Then it was rebuilt in the 14th century. Today Castle Combe Manor is a unique hotel with 45 rooms, traditional stone cottages. The grounds also include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet lawn nearby. It’s a great spot to take the weekend off and forget about things. And it’s not far from the city.

Here are some photos of the house, the interior and the garden. I miss it already!

The Manor House full of ivy in the summer

A little stream run through the property

A garden behind the house on the hill

The Manor House in all its glory with the local Cotswolds stone

The view from the back windows

Ah, perfect little afternoon tea. I had a full afternoon tea with all the trimmings the next day, but I loved just having a simple tea with a few pieces of home made short bread.  And I love relaxing in a room with gold and purple!

And looks like the outdoor flowers match as well!

Relaxing in the garden…

 

I was in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty…

Last month while I was taking a business trip in London, I had a chance to visit Cotswolds area of UK, the beautiful English country side. It was pretty easy to buy the tickets from British Railway and one and half hour later, I was surrounded by gentle rolling hills with cows and sheep! I stayed in the Manor House at Castle Combe, a fourteen century manor. I will talk about the impressive manor separately, but as soon as I dropped off my bag, I went to explore.

The little village right outside the manor gate was so cute. They are all constructed with local golden/yellow Cotswolds lime stones. There were not a whole lot of cottages and they all line up by a gentle slope. At the bottom of the slope, there is a bridge over a small stream. It was magical, just as I imagined of a typical English country side from the movies and books. Well, in fact, several films were filmed here. The most recent was Steven Spielberg’s War Horse due to be released by Christmas 2011. No wonder this area is designated as the “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. I guess I came to the right place, exactly what I needed after much busy life in New York and a busy week in the London office!

The village road winds down to a small stone bridge

No one seems to be around, but this pillow cat is looking out the street.

A cute butterfly followed me…

Someone put a few pieces of cakes by the door. If you want a piece, just drop the pay through the door.

Your Royal Highness

Day 3 guest tour – round about midtown

Day 3 of the tour is back to Manhattan. After breakfast, we went to the Top of the Rock. Top of the Rock is my favorite roof top observation deck in Manhattan because it’s in midtown so it has a 360 view of the entire city, it’s not as crowded as Empire State building, and its height is not too tall for our eyes to observe without binoculars. :-)

  • Top of the Rock
  • Rockefeller Center
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • NY Palace Hotel (Lunch at the garden was divine)
  • A stroll on 5th Avenue (admiring the windows of Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton)
  • A small rest in the afternoon and a big dinner at Craft!

If  we had the energy, we could have done MOMA as well. But that’s saved for the next time.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Lunch at Palace Gate of the Palace Hotel, an escape from the midtown crowd.

(Hotel photos courtesy of the Palace Hotel)

Lunch

  • Truffle potato fries with garlic herb aioli – The best fries I’ve had!
  • Frisee salad with poached egg, grilled asparagus, mustard vinaigrette

A bento box lunch with

  • Heirloom tomato gazpacho with grilled tiger prawns, sherry, cumin
  • Croque-Monsieur with country ham, Gruyere, Bechamel (half)
  • Key lime pie with creme chantilly

Craft for Dinner

Craft is my all time favorite restaurant in New York. Everything is so fresh, the wine list is extensive, the decor is modern and sexy. Of course, the service is always nice!

Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera for the incredible dinner, but a quick glance at their menu here should convince anyone to try it.

The dinner was wonderful but I will remember to bring my good camera when I dine in any Tom Colicchio’s restaurant next time!

Day 2 guest tour – Brooklyn

Day 2 of the tour for our guests is focused on Brooklyn. Brooklyn is such a large and diverse city that we don’t have time to experienced it all. But at least we did these…

Breakfast at Balthazar with the best pastry basket, eggs benedict…

After breakfast, we went to Brooklyn Botanical Garden when it was still quiet in the morning and the whole place seemed like a private garden.

A stroll through Brooklyn Museum afterwards.

I liked the installation “reOrder: An Architectural Environment by Situ Studio“.

Finally, a tasty pie at Gramildi‘s Pizzeria.

A 10 hours 6 miles day in Manhanttan

6 miles in 10 hours…certainly can’t compare to a marathon runner, but considering walking around the city for 10 hours, eating 3 meals and visiting 6 neighborhoods in Manhattan in a day, under the sun, it’s not so shabby for endurance.

Today is the first day showing our visitors around the city for their 4-day stay. I’m really exhausted but we had an amazing day. So I’ll let the pictures speak.

AM

A light breakfast from Le Pain Quotidien. The organic steel cut oatmeal with berries was a warm start for the day. Ending a Dim Sum lunch at Chinatown Brasserie with these cute and tasty vanilla egg custard buns.

Union Square Farmer’s Market has beautiful seasonal flowers and handmade yarn

Fresh spring onions, carrots, multi-colored rhubarbs from Union Square Farmer’s Market

A stroll through the city hall park with Sol LeWitt Structures

PM

Astor Place ismy favorite from Bond No. 9. The perfume was inspired by Astor place neighborhood, the “vibrant arts and style intersection”. Going to Bond No. 9 is always a relaxing experience not just because of the perfume but because they serve Harney & Son’s tea at the back of the store in the tea tasting space. Just a perfect place on a rainy day. Lights at Moss, my favorite furniture and home store in NYC

We had a brief stop at 230 5th, the roof top bar to sock in the sunset view of the Empire State building and Chrysler building.  The place has a great view of the city, not quite the best view of people or the best drinks. So go there at just the right time and leave just at the right time.

Finally a wonderful meal at Gramercy Tavern. Dinning at the bar area does not require reservation and it’s the same food. The service was impeccable and the food quality is a no-brainer. It’s always good! I had two oysters for appetizer, Sea Bass with asparagus, Garlic Scapes and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms for the main course and Rhubarb Crisp, Frozen Yogurt and Strawberry Ice Cream for dessert.

Temple Mountain

Throughout Cambodia, you can see the ancient temples were constructed with multiple pyramid shaped towers to represent the home of the Hindu gods. Typically there are five towers that symbolizes the five peaks of Mount Meru. This unique structure called “Temple Mountain” is synonymous with Khmer architecture.

I created a series of small 22k gold plated drops with shapes that reminded me of these “Temple Mountains”. They come as necklaces and earrings and are available in the store.

Here are some pictures of my travels and the jewelry inspired from it.

Enjoy!

Temple Mountain Edition

Temple Mountain Edition

Angkor Wat

Bas-relief at Angkor Wat

Angkor Thom and Banyan Tree