Last time I was in London was just over a year ago: I met a VP of a client and we had coffee, ok, tea, at the Savoy; met up with her adorable now-husband Mark for a long drink-laden meal in Chelsea (where I visibly horrified him with the revelation to him that the Whole Foods there in London that he so adored was in fact, gasp, a Texas import), followed by a mad dash for a cab to get me off to St. Pancras Station for my same day train back to Paris.
And the time before that was to see my sister's film premiere at a film festival in London, where I have memories of tube strike, missing a big law firm party, and walking miles in heels with crushed-in toenails and monstrous blisters.
And the only time before that was a quick weekend getaway with my Junior Year in France buddies, in which the cheap transportation involved a night ferry caught up in vicious storms with everyone sick on the boat, no operating toilets, and barely enough time to grab a burger at a Hard Rock Cafe once we landed on solid ground for a few hours.
All this to say, I really do not know London at all. They do not speak French there, so it is not all that interesting to me in terms of a foreign country, because it seems not too foreign at all. Until we get to the food issues. What to eat. And then it seems really foreign, and I remember this is still a foreign country.
I understand we will be meeting and greeting and learning - me about VC system in the UK, partnerships and trade issues and other business opportunities with Austin (Hackney and Austin have a super cool collaboration already going on--witness Hackney's serious and seriously funky presence at SxSW 2013 via Hackney House) - but I am of course really intrigued about the food situation that awaits. Our group will be debriefing every day at a pub, and I get I will be getting some beer into my diet rather than Côtes du Rhônes this trip, and that's cool. But what about protein and vegetables, the usual stuff I'm supposed to be eating these days.
Before I run to Randall's to stock up on some protein bars and almonds, I've done some quick research to get my food vocabulary ready. One of my favorite and most informative US food blog sites is Serious Eats. And they report that these are the top 10 food items I should be looking for in London:
Pie and Mash with Liquor Sauce
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Toasted Cheese Sandwich aka Cheese Toastie
Roast Bone Marrow
Number one on the list looks seriously yummy, if not seriously non-Paleo. It is described here as follows:
"While we're fans of the gourmet, free-range, responsibly sourced meat pies (like those from Pieminister) you can find around town, you cannot visit London and not hit up one of the ever-shrinking handful of traditional, cash-only pie-and-eel shops. You'll recognize them by their odd hours and lines of old-timers extending out the door at lunch. The thing to order, and there's not a whole lot of choice, is pie and mash with liquor sauce: a minced-beef meat pie and mashed potatoes ladled with a (nonalcoholic) thin green parsley sauce."
The picture is more lovely than it may sound: a light pastry of sorts with meat filling, albeit including mashed potatoes. Ravioli-esque.
But what really sounds perfectly A-ok in my book, is this adorably named Bacon Butty. Serious Eats reports as follows:
It may not be as quintessential a breakfast as, say, a traditional fry-up or beans on toast, but don't underestimate the power of the bacon butty—this is, unapologetically, a sandwich of bacon and white bread. Depending on the type of bread used, it may go by other names—on a large roll, for example, it's a "bacon bap"—but in any case, the building blocks of this salty, satisfying sandwich are quite simple. Thick, meaty back bacon, white bread, and the condiment of your choice (English mustard, HP sauce, ketchup). It's more than just acceptable to dine on this; it's a pretty common on-the-go budget breakfast among many a London office worker. You can't go wrong—it's a bacon sandwich! Also in this category is the chip (French fry) butty and the ever-popular fish finger sandwich."
Have to agree on the can't-go-wrong-with-bacon idea.
This will be interesting.
One of our group already reports via email that I should take the train and not the Tube into town from Heathrow. I guess I need to finish packing....