Monthly Archives: January 2012

British pub crazy in Monterey

We spent the long weekend on the Monterey coast and enjoyed some beautiful sunshine in the middle of January. We really are so lucky to live in California!

I’m not quite sure if there is a huge population of Britfolk in Monterey but for a population of 408,000, the city has not one, not two, but five British pubs to speak of.

* The Crown & Anchor, 150 W. Franklin St., Monterey. (831) 649-6496.

* The Bulldog British Pub, 611 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. (831) 658-0686.

* London Bridge Pub, Wharf Number 2, Monterey. (831) 372-0581.

* Brittania Arms Pub & Restaurant, 444 Alvarado St., Monterey. (831) 656-9543.

* Bullwacker’s, 653 Cannery Row, Monterey. (831) 373-1353.

We went to London Bridge Pub since it welcomed kids and had a kids’ menu (I’ve since discovered that Bullwacker’s is also welcoming of wee ones …) and were instantly transported into your typical British pub atmosphere, which is actually very comforting. There was plenty of London signs, Guinness ads, tea pots and British posters as well as a menu with the usual suspects – pasties, bangers and mash, curry and rice, cottage pie. With a pint of Boddington and some fish and chips, I was, as they say, happy as Larry.

Just who exactly was this mythical Larry?

My guess is that he was a British ex-pat who made his way to Monterey and discovered a home away from home.

Fine food and film

Number 5,761 reason why Britain is so cool: The Lounge at Odeon, the new London luxury cinema experience for the over-18 crowd.

With leather seats that fully recline and no more than 50 seats per screen, it’s a spacious way to enjoy a movie. But they also offer a full menu of finger foods, fork-and-knife fare including red mullet and prawn risotto, venison chili and lasagne, and desserts as well as a cocktail menu, all delivered directly to your seat by dedicated wait staff.

It’s a novel way to enjoy the big screen (and certainly beats oversalted popcorn and gloppy nachos). I would certainly check it out if I were in London this weekend …

Speaking of weekends, have a wonderful one and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Americans enjoy a bank holiday on Monday)! I’ll see you back here on Tuesday.

Totes Amaze

Sometimes an expression just comes along that grabs me. For awhile it was “bajiggety,” as in out of sorts, confused, flustered, upset. It was used in “The Sweetest Thing” with Christina Applegate and Cameron Diaz and I latched on. It is a stellar phrase.

But it’s been surpassed by “totes amaze,” as in totally amazing. The Brits are using it. It’s whimsical, youthful, and little stupid. It’s the two words that British singer Lily Allen tweeted right after having her baby.

Totes amaze. Coming soon to the U.S.

There ain’t no cure for the wintertime brews

We may still be in the thick of winter but the worst of it is thankfully behind us. Yes, I’m talking about the end of the winter brews – those dreadful American spiced lagers and ales that have been everywhere since Thanksgiving.

Enemy number 1 in the spicy brew world? Samuel Adams’ Winter Lager. I must’ve seen the commercial at least 100 times, groaning with each careful mention of the spices involved. I like spices in my gingerbread, pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, sure. But beer? No thanks. Brits may drink their beer warm but they don’t dare mess about with cinnamon and ginger in the brewing process. I can respect that.

I’m happy to report that winter lager is now gone from Samuel Adams’ website and has been replaced by something spice-free: an Alpine Spring brew. It’s always something.

A simple posset

The last time we were in England for Christmas, I tasted my first posset.

That’s posset, not possum. This is England, people, not Kentucky.

And so this time of year, I always think about posset, this simple dessert made from citrus fruit, sugar, cream and sometimes eggs, which traces back to the 16th century. It’s easily made in minutes and will brighten up the darkest of winter days.

The following is a very simple recipe for lemon posset, courtesy of the BBC and chef James Martin:

600ml/1 pint 1fl oz double cream
150g/5oz caster sugar
2 large lemons, zest and juice only

1. Place the double cream and the sugar into a large pan over a low heat and bring to the boil slowly. Boil for three minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk well.
3. Pour the lemon cream mixture into six large serving glasses and refrigerate for three hours.

Tube map of cocktail bars

I’m absolutely enamored with this tube map of cocktail bars in London, as seen on

All cocktail bars are within walking distance of their respective tube station. It’s a great concept and still a work in progress! If you have any suggestions, you can contact Ginmonkey. And many thanks to Martini Mandate for leading me to it!

Happy Epiphany

I just had an epiphany last night … that today is Epiphany! The 12 days of Christmas are finally done (yes, so many Americans believe the 12 days of Christmas comes in the run up to Christmas Day but in fact, the countdown begins after Christmas is over).

What’s it all about? What’s it all mean?
Read the rest of this entry

Pork crackling, part deux

You asked, “Why exactly would a hairdryer be used to prepare roast pork?”

Well, as a post-holiday gift to you, I’ll tell you the secret.

Shhh… lean in. Are you leaning in? Really?

Okay, so in order to make really good pork crackling, you need to get the pork as dry as possible.

According to Gastronomy Domine, after scoring the skin with a craft knife (we purchased a box cutter just for this occasion. We really are very crafty) and rubbing salt into the skin, the site recommends that you “take a hairdryer to the skin of the meat until it’s absolutely bone dry. Wrap your joint in a teatowel and refrigerate it overnight. (The atmosphere in your fridge is extremely dry, and this will help any more moisture to evaporate.)”

In short, that is why my husband went all Ken Paves on our pork.

We got some other tips here and used a little poetic license as far as the heat and timing was concerned.

But that is how we ended up with the crispiest pork rind west of the English Channel.

The year of Kate

Photo credit: Reuters/Kieran Doherty

Have you heard?

Experts (who exactly are these “experts” I do wonder…) have already predicted that “Kate” (as in Middleton) will be a big buzzword in 2012.

I guess that’s not too surprising considering she is the Duchess of Cambridge and that the future king of England will be theoretically springing from her loins and all … not to mention the fact that she has the greatest hair ever (it’s gotta be extensions, right?!) and a razor-sharp eye for purchasing clothing on a budget that still looks like a million pounds (That’s a talent, y’all … and yes, I did just use y’all for added emphasis.)

* Breathe *

Here’s the predicted buzzword list for 2012, as reported by the Daily Mail. You’re welcome, America.

1. Kate: There are seven billion humans on the planet but sometimes it seems that it’s all about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge
2. Olympiad: The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games, held in London next year
3. Middle Kingdom: There is little indication that China’s continuing economic surge will fade from the global media spotlight – or abate
4. Bak’tun: A cycle of 144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse
5. Solar max: The peak 11-year sunspot cycle
6. The Election: No Obama-mania this time around, more of an Obama-ennui for the November 6 elections
7. Deficit: Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade
8. Rogue nukes: Iran and North Korea will be the focus of attention here
9. CERN: Neutrons travelling faster than light? The ‘God Particle’? The world ending in a mini-black hole? All these somehow revolve around CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research)
10. Global Warming: The earth has been warming since New York was covered under a mountain of ice; what makes 2012 any different?
11. Near-Earth Asteroid: Yet another year, another asteroid, another near-miss.
12. Europe: United, breaking apart, saving the Euro, abandoning the Euro, with the UK again as an ‘interested onlooker’
Source: Global Language Monitor

In praise of pig skin

Happy 2012! I hope you had a good New Year’s!

We had some friends over on New Year’s Day for a very big lunch. The main course? Pork tenderloin with crackling. It was no easy feat to find a butcher willing to sell such a piece of pork with the skin still on it. This is California, after all. The butcher asked repeatedly if we really wanted the skin still on it. He would be happy to remove it. It was really no trouble.

But no. We wanted the skin and it stayed. My husband prepped the pork the night before in some way that involved the hair dryer. I didn’t ask. Sometimes you have to leave Brits to their own devices. Sometimes you’re better off not knowing.

Photo credit: Felicity Cloake

What I do know: after the pig spent some time roasting in the oven the next day, it was simply gorgeous and my apologies that I had forgotten to take a photo. The skin had transformed into this thick, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that was indeed cracking good crackling. Blistered, buttery bliss. The crack cocaine of the pig world. We don’t eat like this every day, of course, but once a year, on New Year’s? Hell yeah!

And served with stuffing, roast potatoes, mashed carrots and swede (translation: rutabaga), red cabbage and apples, Yorkshire pudding (yeah, I know it’s not the usual accompaniment, but sometimes it’s just what is required), as well as a pavlova with fresh raspberries for dessert, we ushered in the new year with our bellies full and happy, thankful for everything that we have.