Monday, November 24, 2008

London Calling: Lost in the Supermarket

My final day in London found Sian and I on a pilgrimage to the Borough Market. The market was much like a food heaven, or amusement park, absent height restrictions or necessity of death. I enjoy a good farmers market, or even just a proper roadside farm stand. As a grocer, one comes to appreciate these things. Those places are destinations for sleepy Sunday afternoons. Borough Market, on the other hand, is like Mecca. You go there, and you worship every aspect of food; the craft behind it, the serving of it, the preparation of it, and eating it.

The first thing we saw, as we began to navigate the hurried, narrow passageways, was a giant paella pan full of delicious smelling paella. I have been weary of paella Stateside since my last encounter with the soupy saffron rice pilaf I was served at Saba in August. This was a redeeming image for me, I could see the crusty goodness with my very own eyes.

That is a huge pan.

This table was immediately followed by an oyster and Prosecco stand. Could there be a better way to get the stomach conditioned for a long walk through a magical wonderland of gastronomical delight? Probably not. I bought Sian and myself one massive oyster each, and a glass of bubbly. She'd never tried oysters, so this experience could have gone several ways. These were Scottish rock oysters, a variety I've never had; they seemed to be rather fresh, and massive. A little malt vinegar and a toast later, and they were down the hatch. Briny and delicious. I heart oysters. Sian... not so much.

Would this fly on Sixth St.?


Wardrobe malfunction.


Unsure of the results...

From there, bubbly in hand, we made our way into the heart of the beast. It was throbbing with intensity; people shouting, chewing, laughing, drinking, and making deals, all creating some sort of supernatural hum. The next stop was at the terrine booth. The man behind the counter had a nice selection of terrines, from a variety of animals. There was a pork terrine that was done in the chunky, country style, that did not contain any offal, which, after some time, I was able to convince Sian to try. She was surprised that she actually liked it. It was very delicious, but, I'm sure she thought that there had to be some kind of guts in there, which made her apprehensive from the start.

Terrines are amazing.

We moved on, tasting fresh cheeses, and meats. Each cheese I tasted was amazing. A great representation of an old British skill. Stilton was everywhere, and there were even a few booths selling gruyeres and alpage style cheese. I love samples. I even had a smidge of some black pudding along the way. This was the only time that I saw any of it on my trip, otherwise, I would have eaten it somewhere... It was amazing. I don't get why we don't eat more blood and guts in this country. They're delicious! I'm not even joking, and I'm sure you, Dear Reader, will be hearing about my pursuits for gore in the future.

British Cheese is great.

More mushrooms than Dead tour.

Look at those brussels sprouts.

Meat from the land of Mad Cow.

Eventually, we stumbled upon a booth selling cider. I love the British ciders. I opted for the dry cider, and it was very, very, dry. It was convenient that my trip managed to correspond with the beginning of the cider season. I was fortunate to have a few over my time across the pond. There was a small beer store set up in the market, that had a great selection of craft beers on hand. Yay, beer!

Cider is easier to make than beer, or wine.

"Please buy my tofu..."

Why didn't I buy one of these?

Cheese never sleeps...

The fish mongers, and meat purveyors, were all selling what appeared to be high quality, super fresh product. There was an abnormal amount of ostrich meat around, which was interesting. I remember that being a fad here over a decade ago, but haven't seen it around in a while. Who knows? Maybe they like the climate.

Fresh diver scallops!

Monkfish are ugly.

Fresh fish.

So many olives.


We walked around in circles for about an hour, before deciding that we should probably have lunch. I chose the paella with prawns, and Sian had some sort of Greek wrap thing, that was filled with feta, and lamb, I think. What ever it was, it was good. The paella was very nice; crusty, and full of flavor. The prawns were large, and tender, with a taste reminiscent of well prepared crawfish. Success...

The tin container made this classy.

What we needed was some booze to wash all this food down. Fortunately for us, there was a wine bar right there! La Cave. Despite having just stuffed ourselves on loads of high quality food and drink, we went for a five cheese cheese plate to compliment our bottle of Cabernet Franc. I used to be known for good judgement, but I may faltering these days...

Remember your failure in the cave...

I cannot find this wine on the interweb.

Cheese is the best dessert.

Cab Franc... You just don't see much of this guy around. My first experience with this grape was about three, maybe four years ago, when Shaddley, Mitchell and myself went out on a little Hill Country winery jaunt. We ended up at the Spicewoods Vineyards, where we had our third tasting of the day. I remember that this wine stood out to me, and I picked up a bottle. I saved it for a while, and cannot recall the particulars about when, how, with whom or what it was consumed.

Anyway, it is a very drinkable wine, with a far less heavy body than its offspring, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and a flavor profile that lends its flavors complimentarily to foods, rather than completely dominating them. Something you could have with a meal that didn't consist of heavy sauces and steak. I would like to find some more of this and drink it. Shadd? Get on this, if you aren't already. Please and thank you.

La Cave was a nice way to end the trip to the market. I felt content with what I'd seen that day: the love of the art of craft cuisine, each little booth representing specified skill sets executed with perfection and care. We sat and enjoyed our wine, ate our decadent triple cream bries, goat cheese and grapes; laughing in the face of the fleeting nature of time as it slipped into the abyss on this voyage that is life. Vacations are cool.


aa said...

Yeah, that paella looks like it would redeem the dish after US-slush-fraud. I'm bringing back a paella pan, maybe we should make a date to test it out next spring? Can one get rabbit in Texas?
Your cardigan is so cute, the monkfish is so hideous.

PassivePastry said...

if i could only do one thing that you did on your entire trip, i think this would be it.




Flapjacks said...

i can get rabbit! and i'd love to kick it old school style with you, and cook some food!

aa said...

Sounds like a plan. I'll see you when I get expelled from the EU.

Shadd Scott said...

Cab. Franc and rabbit = a great pairing!
I wish we had Cantillon in TX.

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