Wednesday, 22 February 2017

September 2016 Summation

Ahhh, September. I remember it well, for 'twas the end of summer and therefore a sad time. Just kidding, it was still brilliant! 
On the first Thursday of every month, the Regents Place Good Food Market is held in Fitzrovia. There are quite a number of stalls to choose from, as well as plenty of improvised seating. I opted for the falafel stall, and was rewarded with a delicious pot of goodness that included falafel (duh), fresh and pickled veggies, hummus and tahini sauce. This was one of the last times I was seen out-of-doors in 2016 without a cardigan, and I would look back on those late summer days with longing in the coming months.

Though the days were growing chillier, they weren't yet cold enough for me to avoid ice cream. Gelupo is one of the best gelaterias in London and they always have a great selection of sorbets. On this particular occasion (and there were many) I had mango, peach and plum. Some other places we enjoyed for gelato and sorbet were Snowflake, La Gelateria and Venchi.

To commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, a fiery event was held on 4 September. A very long miniature model of the City of London had been crafted out of wood and set afloat on a barge, only to be struck alight after the sun went down.

It was incredibly difficult to see much of anything, as there was such a crowd lined up along the Thames. I clambered up atop Yannick's shoulders at one stage, and then Yannick Assasin's Creeded his way up the side of a lamppost only to be told off by a passing policeman for health and safety reasons. What we could see was a blazing fire in the middle of the river, which I suppose is exactly what we had expected to see. I did feel a little bit bad for the sculptors of the model, but hopefully he knew what the fate of his handiwork would be. Before the blaze, we had gone to the so-called Fire Food Market, but disappointingly there wasn't much in the way of wood-fired or char-grilled anything and it was a typical food market. Nonetheless, I was introduced to a food stall called SpiceBox who gave me last of their fare for free (they asked if I really did want it, as they were scraping the bottom of their pots and pans) and invited me to visit them at a later date for a discount. I was completely happy with what they had given me as it was so tasty (and free!) but wouldn't pass up a discount.

Lo and behold! More SpiceBox, this time from Kerb Market behind King's Cross Station. Though very filling, after meeting up with Yannick for lunch I got dessert with Adam from Mildred's, a well-regarded vegetarian and vegan restaurant with branches in King's Cross, Soho and Camden. The dessert was excellent, but what I remember most was their Turkish Rose mocktail - exquisite!

For most of September we house sat for a Jack Russel Terrier named Ben in North Finchley. He was such a good dog, and only barked when we were visited by the postman. It was hilarious to watch him run around with his doughnut toy, which squeaked if you bit it in just the right place, and dash about in the garden marking his territory in fifty different places.

Though we had been to North Finchley before when we house sat for Kevin and Keeno, we hadn't explored the village much due to limited time. We found the area exceedingly charming, and thought that out of all the places in London we had been thus far, North Finchley would be a place we would strongly consider living full-time; this is due to a number of reasons including travel time to the city, the fact that you have all the shops you'd need on the high street and yet it still has a village feel, and the well-stocked Ari Foods: a grocery with amazing dates, Turkish delight, bulgur wheat, dolmades and other usually difficult to find or overpriced foods.
The photo above shows the Tally Ho pub, a high street institution named for the nearby Tally Ho Corner, which housed a coach company in the early 1800's where horses were used for mail services. Some other interesting facts: the first British soldier to be killed during WWI, Private John Parr, was a resident of North Finchley; and Charles Dickens stayed in Finchley for a time when he was writing Martin Chuzzlewit. 

Outside the large Sainsbury's supermarket is a memorial bench for the local character Horace White. Horace was well-known by residents as he would sit for much of the day on the footpaths along the main road and draw with crayons, wishing every passerby "the best of luck!" After three decades of this, he sadly passed away in 2012 but was honoured with a well-attended funeral. His sister, who cared for him, asked the public to refrain from wearing black to the service. From what I've read, he was a cheery figure who made Finchley folk smile. 

Our house sit host was a woman of many talents, one being brewing up flavoured alcohols. She took me on a walk one day to a nearby stable where we picked blackberries from the brambles (though the season was as its end and our efforts bore little fruit) and she showed me where she picked sloe berries. She made her own blackberry sorbet and sloe gin. As well as the gin, which I was to stir once a day to get everything properly mixed, she was in the process of preparing Rumtoph: a traditional German drink/dessert sauce that is begun in spring and consumed in winter.

From Ari Foods and other supreme groceries and supermarkets in North Finchley, I made the most of the season and procured vibrant summer fruits for platters and fruit salads. Looking at those beautiful raspberries inflicts physical pain in me - I neeeeed them!


While on our Greek holiday in July, we had noticed the prevalence of something called "dild", a herb most spellcheckers refer to as 'dill' (I prefer dild - it's more inuendous).


And indeed, while training myself to become a Greek cuisine master, I became a big fan of the dild. There's something incredibly Greek-tasting about it, and it transformed my stuffed capsicum into high quality foodstuffs. We paired the capsicum with Afghan bread from the Afghan grocery (we could find no freshly prepared pita), fried courgette, roast cherry tomatoes, dolmades, hummus, and muhammara (a spicy red pepper and walnut dip originating from Aleppo, Syria).

On many Tuesday and Thursday nights, Yannick would participate in basketball games through meetup.com. Strangely enough, they began quite late in the evening and instead of coming all the way back home and then having to head out again, we would often meet for dinner after work and then wander about a bit. On several such nights, we patronised My Village Cafe in Camden. Yannick really liked the halloumi wraps, and I would get one of the meals with rice, veggies, dolmades and salad. The house wines and fresh squeezed juices were also top notch. 

For a spot of fun, we took a trip down to the Clapham Common tube station one weekend to see the latest ad installments: cats! The Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS for short) fundraised to provide a "relaxing, fun and light-hearted" space for two weeks instead of the usual advertising bombardment. A nice gesture, I think, and rather cute.