Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pulled a Mussel

Dear Jimmy,

Have I mentioned that Mike, Sa and Kenna met us for lunch? In case you're not aware, Mike is a "foodie" and not only knows good food, but dines quite often in London. He's taken us to dinners and luncheons several times and the food is always terrific. If he recommends a restaurant, go - it will be worth it.

He recommended we meet at Sale e Pepe (or somesuch). Turns out it was four doors down (or so) from our hotel - I had almost stopped in there to eat lunch the day before. It is a proper fancy Italian restaurant with lots of yelling and tuxedos. The food was amazing and the place was packed with all sort of business people having lunch. John and I still wore our casual attire and thought nothing of it. As you have seen, we are casual people and the threat of fancy lunch cannot change that. I had linguine and clams and while I had to wrestle with a pasta-rolling spoon, I still managed to avoid splashing most of my tablemates with the sauce. I was also able to hum the Squeeze tune, Pulling Mussels from the Shell (see what I did there?) while I freed the baby clams from their holders. Although I felt a bit of guilt since these clams were so young and hadn't been able to experience the full clam experience of the sea, they gave their lives to a greater cause and were delicious.

After lunch we strolled back to our hotel which has a veranda with tables and ashtrays. While the pubs in the UK and Wisconsin may not allow smoking inside, a few have recognized that smokers are very willing to part with their money if they have a place to sit. We enjoyed a coffee and a dessert (well some of us had dessert - the always-willing-to-eat-American and her ex-Pat husband) and several hours of stories and joking. At times we were quite loud, but since we were sitting behind the hotel on a cool, rainy afternoon, we basically had the place to ourselves. The good people caught a cab to the train station and hopefully avoided being crushed within their train by all those commuters. We've since heard from them and they seem all right for the experience.

Back to food (most things will lead me there I'm afraid), I can happily add the following new items to my list of favorites: tattie scones (pronounced "scuns" I believe) from your kitchen - I would like more of those now please. Lucozade (orange flavor - note the lack of "u" - I'm using American spellcheck) a great way for this old machine to top up her electrolytes. Appletiser - read it in the new Ian Rankin book, tried it and found it divine. It would go quite nicely with the tattie scone breakfast fantasy I'm having right now. Scottish salmon - I always thought salmon was salmon and discovered this is not so. Insert happy sigh here.

The greatest food disappointment of this trip is that now a lot of the potato crisps are calling themselves potato chips and that just removes the exotic lure for me, although the sea salt and pepper flavor ("u"-less again!) are pretty kick-ass. So now you know that my not-so-hidden addiction that must be quenched once I hit Heathrow is salty potato items in a bag. Similar to heroin (or so I'm told) but I've not yet sold the television to get them - I can (and have) order(ed) them on-line and dole them out to myself as a reward for things well done or an it'll-be-okay-tomorrow soother for things that have gone balls-up. Perhaps the potatoes are rinsed in a lithium-tainted water before frying...either way, they do make things a bit better.

John's greatest food delight was the large amount of oatcakes that Elspeth sent along with us. He adores them and I find myself struggling to find the perfect topping to cover what to me, tastes like a doorstop. But that is due to my under-developed palette which was raised on sugar-coated, MSG-loaded foodstuffs. I feel every bit the unsophisticated American as I crash through Scottish and English food like King Kong in a souvenir shop roaring "good" or "bad" while smashing all the snow globes. A terrible thing.

John was able to almost fulfill his quota of bangers and mash as there was a great pub directly across the street from our hotel. Although smack-dab in the middle of London's Tourist Center (or Centre if you prefer), it had a great combination of the after-work crowd and only a smattering of tourists. I had a variety of different cheese sandwiches, some with ham some without, but all with cheese (although Wisconsin is America's Dairyland ["Come and smell our dairy air!"], ain't no better cheese than British cheddar), and they had cider on tap.

It was an experience that "wasn't half-bad." Not half-bad at all.

All for now, more later.

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