I’ve been in a funk since the election and with the inauguration and this hot mess of the past week in the news, only one show cheers me up: Vanderpump Rules.
I discovered it on Hulu last fall and after a couple of episodes, I was hooked. Somehow the over-the-top antics of this twenty-something restaurant staff at Lisa Vanderpump’s Sur restaurant in West Hollywood was just what I needed. It’s soapy and silly and reality TV at its best when you just need a light mental break from the heaviness of life. It’s the visual equivalent of a sweet, bubbly, decidedly pink cocktail.
If you don’t know Lisa Vanderpump, she is the very British owner of three L.A. hot spots – Villa Blanca, Sur and Pump. She is grounded and funny and smart, despite her millions, a wonderfully accomplished restaurant head, a confidant and voice of reason with her young staff, and she is so delightedly British and likable.
This past weekend, I finally finished Season 4! If you haven’t watched it, give Vanderpump Rules a try!
So where were we? Ah yes, just landing at London Heathrow! We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, which remains part of my favorite ritual of returning back to London. There is just a certain peace in that travel – something about the homes whizzing past, the calming British accents on the overhead speaker, the quick news roundup — the 15 minute trip is one of my faves!
And then it’s Paddington Station, which still feels familiar from when I used to live here – the soup cart, Delice de France and Burger King is still there, you still have to pay to use the toilets, but there’s more construction going on! More retail and food stores in the works! It’s enough new and old to make me feel that I have returned!
When we first moved back to California from the U.K. more than a decade ago, we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square in San Francisco. It kind of epitomized everything that was American – unapologetic, calorie-laden decadence detailed in a really long, laminated menu. It felt like a world-is-your-oyster kind of place. You want pasta? Steak? Omelette? Pizza? Burger? Sandwich? Seafood? Salad? You can get it here. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s over two dozen different types of cheesecake. There is simply nothing like it in the U.K.
But for me, the Cheesecake Factory ship has sailed. I have nothing against the Cheesecake Factory, but it no longer holds the appeal that it once had. We had no official falling out. It’s just become this kind of American dining experience (like TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Sizzler, Outback Steakhouse) that I avoid (not because I am snob, although if the shoe fits …), but because there are so many amazing independently owned restaurants in San Francisco, I couldn’t imagine eschewing them all in favor of a stop at a chain restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory.
And yet, everytime we have friends visiting from the U.K., without fail, they suggest dining there. These are friends that don’t know each other. Relatives that don’t know the friends. No common connection except for their Britishness. But they’re all on the same British Cheesecake Factory bandwagon. They don’t ask about any of the other chains, mind you. They save their love for Cheesecake Factory.
So many column inches have been devoted to the cronut in New York, but did you know you can get a cronut knockoff in London?
I’ve just discovered that Greggs Bakery, of all places, has launched this half croissant, half donut hybrid in its London stores and christened it the “greggsnut.” It’s available in berry and caramel-pecan.
(I should add that I have never had a cronut, but have tried the DIY hack version, using Pillsbury crescent rolls. I didn’t attempt the filling, only topped it with chocolate frosting but I won’t lie. It was sublime.)
I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings in the U.K. and at the time, there weren’t many places where you could go to celebrate (apart from calling on other Americans and planning a meal together). But things are progressing.
About.com has compiled a good list of places throughout the U.K. offering Thanksgiving menus this week (and not just the usual turkey and stuffing, but some variations on the theme like Cornish crab macaroni and cheese and pumpkin and ricotta ravioli!) Yum!
Today marks the beginning of a yummy week – National Curry Week! Check out TripAdvisor.com’s roundup of best curry restaurants in the U.K.
Personally, the best curry I ever had was in Bradford, England over 15 years ago! It was a little spot called The Kashmir, but remember it being a revelation of the tastebuds (and it was cheap as chips)!
What’s the best curry you’ve ever had?
Greed is good. Gordon Gekko’s famous line from Wall Street still rings true in restaurants across the US.
When I first lived in the UK, I was struck by the concept of greed as it relates to food. I was at a Christmas party and the host had set out a delicious spread of food so guests could help themselves, buffet-style. A British woman in front of me commented on how greedy she was for trying a little of everything. Her plate was modest. She was slim. But still, this concept of greed overwhelmed her – or at least commonplace decency welled up, enough for her to make that comment.
Over the years, I’ve heard these kinds of comments over and over by Brits. Most Americans simply aren’t programmed to think this way. We think of greed in terms of money and possessions, but not in terms of eating too much or supersizing our meals. Gluttony may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but the message seems to have evaded our collective conscience.
I challenge you to visit any all-you-can-eat American restaurant like Golden Corral or Hometown Buffet in search of this distinctly British mentality. I can already guarantee there will be no such modesty and no apologies, aside from “I’m sorry that I couldn’t have made room for that second piece of cobbler” or “I’m sorry I didn’t wear my fat pants tonight” variety.