Fette Sau, Brooklyn, NYC

My stomach deserved nothing but the best on its last day in New York. A final treat before all meaty, carby goodness was replaced by a vegan health kick back home.

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Fette Sau came highly recommended by bloggers, NY ‘must eat’ lists and friends. We were told to get there early to avoid the crowds, which suited our timings well as a 9pm flight sat on the horizon.

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One way to describe the interior is an ‘all-American meat canteen’. You queue, you order, you pay, you sit, you eat. Seat wise, you can either enjoy the dark, man-friendly, no-frills interior, or the sunshine filled wooden tables outside.

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For just $20, the meat man gave us enough slow cooked slabs for three people, minus the chicken and sausages (they were irrelevant to us). We also had spongy, buttery brioche buns, BBQ beans and our ‘desperate to be healthy’ cold, not particularly tasty, broccoli (these men know their meat, not their veggies).

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Our ribs were covered in sweet, glazed meat. The brisket fell apart on the fork and the pork belly? Well that just melted in the mouth. Oh yes, it pays to slow cook meat between 12 and 18 hours.

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We didn’t drink (although there were some interesting wines and local brews on offer) and we didn’t order dessert. We just filled ourselves with enough BBQ’d meat to help us refuse revolting plane food at 33,000ft.

Fette Sau 354 Metropolitan Avenue (Havemeyer Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Food 4/5 – Price 5/5 – Staff 4/5 – Atmosphere 4/5

Smorgasburg, Brooklyn, NYC

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If you’re in New York on a weekend, Smorgasburg is the perfect place to while away the hours. Think Street Feast, KERB and Urban Food Fest, but on a larger scale with a fantastic Manhattan backdrop.

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Smorgasburg is a street food festival that attracts 100 street vendors to Williamsburg on Saturdays and Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sundays.

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We walked / taxied our way to Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday 14th September and wandered round the stalls twice before deciding what to buy. We’d read about the Milk Truck Grilled Cheese bar, so kicked things off with a Three Cheese Sandwich.

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Oh yes, this wickedly tasty treat combined aged Gruyere, aged New York State Cheddar and Wisconsin Blue with caramelised, Granny Smith apples on Rosemary Pullman Bread. Cheesy, oozing, deliciousness.

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2nd course was a delightful cheesecake ‘bite’ from Gooey & Co. (the name says it all). We asked the owner where to go next. ‘Simple’, he said, ‘I’m looking right at it’. And so, we turned our heels and marched to Schnitz for a Grumpy Russian.

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The Grumpy Russian was pork loin schnitzel topped with Schnitz Greens, pickled cherries and gorgonzola. It was rich and satisfying, but could have done with a few more cherries to cut through the strong gorgonzola.

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Dinner was two hours away, so we stopped there. Had we stayed another weekend, I’d have gone back without hesitation. Smorgasburg is a place to eat, smile and laugh. Something this grouchy fella will learn as he gets older…

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Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5

momofuku, New York

momofuku means ‘lucky peach’ in Japanese. As there’s no fruit to be seen in this popular restaurant, I can only assume the name refers to its customers – happy, juicy peaches that are lucky to be eating its noodles.

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We went to the original momofuku noodle bar on 1st Avenue and waited around an hour for a seat, guzzling wine by the window. Long wooden tables surrounded the busy bar and kitchen. The atmosphere was fun and lively.

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Some friendly New Yorkers recommended what dishes to choose from the menu, starting with one of the specials – yummy pork buns that made me want to cry with joy ($12).

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They came with a plate of Shrimp & Grits with Benton’s bacon, a poached egg and scallion ($14). This rich, buttery dish was a first for me and one I’d like to relive soon. I hear the Lockhart in Marylebone does a very good version (*dials reservation line).

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Big bowls of Spicy Miso Ramen came next ($15). Filled with smoked chicken, noodles, scallion and sesame, there was also a poached egg that delightfully broke with one prick of my fork, flooding the bowl with bright yellow yolk.

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We didn’t have room for dessert, but our waiter turned us with tales of the momofuku Milk Bar – a standalone bakery that produces weird and wonderful treats for each of the restaurants.

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This month’s focus was cookies, so we ordered a Milk Bar medley – ‘the ritz’ cookie, pretzel cake truffles and strawberry sweet cracker soft serve. I couldn’t eat the truffle – it was too sickly for my very sweet tooth. But the cookie made a perfect scoop for the creamy, sweet ice cream (she wonders why her jeans are too tight).

I’d go back to momofuku in an instant; it’s the original Ramen bar that made me feel like the luckiest girl in New York.

momofuku noodle bar, 171 1st Avenue, New York, ny 10003

Price 4/5 – Atmosphere 4/5 – Staff 5/5 – Food 5/5 

Provence, Summer 2014

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A couple of months ago, I went on a much needed holiday to the South of France. For me, it was always going to be about the food. So if you’re already planning your 2015 getaway (the thought has crossed my mind), perhaps this post will tempt your tastebuds to Provence.

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We stayed in a pretty village called Le Rouret, which just so happened to have its own Michelin-starred restaurant (she says). Le Clos Saint Pierre serves delicious dishes on a magical terrace, which keeps it packed every night. It’s so charming, made all the more special by Head Chef Daniel Ettlinger, who enthusiastically chats food and France with his guests.

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Renting a car was essential for us to explore the surrounding countryside. The Gorge du Verdon is spectacular, whether looking from above the clouds, or pedalling across the turquoise water to its many waterfalls. This ‘Grand Canyon of France’ also gave us an excuse to eat yummy snails and wickedly good creme brûlée at La Table de la Fontaine in Rians.

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Antibes was our number one stop for sea, sand and sunbathing, along with a mooch round its daily food market. Le Marche Provencal is filled with beautiful fruit, vegetables, flowers, cakes, pates and hungry Frenchmen. It made us wish for a villa so we could stuff our baskets with local produce and cook up a feast for dinner. Maybe next time.

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One town we couldn’t miss was Medieval Mougins. Famed for its restaurants, art (Picasso lived there) and undeniable prettiness, it’s also home to a lake of Lotus Flowers that will literally take your breath away.

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We also went to Tourtour, Vence and Nice, which all have qualities you’d be mad to miss. In fact, you’d be mad to miss any of Provence, so go, explore and enjoy. I promise it won’t disappoint.

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Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Bethnal Green

The word that best describes Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is ‘surreal’. You pay a £5 entry fee (the NHS doesn’t cater for small, furry animals) to spend two hours hanging around cat obsessed ladies and gents, who pat, play and photograph the 11 resident cats. To put it bluntly, it’s a cat brothel.

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We went to research (don’t ask), drink tea and eat cake. The selection of cakes is pretty impressive and, after waiting a good ten minutes, my brownie was as chocolaty and fudgy as I’d imagined. In hindsight, we should have gone at lunch for a tasty Brick Lane Bagel, Filled Croissant or Platter – choose between The Kitten, The Housecat or The Platter. It’s the Londoner’s Circle of Life.

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It was hard to think about anything but cats during our visit. Everywhere I looked, another fluffball was either asleep, running round a giant hamster wheel or being taunted by customers. Even the shelves were clear for cats to roam above our heads. It’s an ailurophobiac’s nightmare and a cat lovers dream.

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Before I finish, I must remind you of the Emporium’s House Rules. If you don’t follow them, you will be taken down on social media (yes, these cats have their own twitter handles):

  1. Don’t pick up the cats (they hate it)
  2. Don’t give the cats any food or drink (they’re getting too fat)
  3. Don’t wake sleeping cats (they apparently need 18 hours a day – what the hell?!)
  4. Don’t use flash photography (they have sensitive eyes)
  5. Don’t disturb eating cats (kitty doesn’t share)

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So there you have it. If you’re obsessed with cats, go. If you hate cats, don’t. As for me, I’m holding out for the puppy café.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6DG

Raw Press, Mayfair

I never thought I’d say this, but I can now imagine life without meat and fish. Life where fruit and veg rule my diet, along with pretentious pulses and edible seeds.

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I can thank my lovely almost Vegan housemate for this, along with Deliciously Ella‘s recipe app, Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible salads and cold-pressed juice bars like Raw Press, which just opened in Mayfair.

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Walk into Raw Press and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a hipster cafe in Brooklyn, or how I imagine every LA restaurant to be. It’s shiny, clean and white, with splashes of colour from glass juice bottles and big bowls of salad. It magically makes you feel healthy the moment you arrive.

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I was lucky enough to taste all their cold-pressed juices, which made picking my favourites easy. No. 2 Green is my ultimate thirst quencher, packed with superfood goodness from its combination of apple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, Swiss chard and lemon (£5.50/£7.50).

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Then, for something a little naughtier, it has to be No. 7 Coffee & Mylk (£5.50/£7.50). Made with almonds, coconut water, dates, Himalayan salt, vanilla bean and cold brew coffee, it blows any regular flavoured milk out the water.

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Now some of you will be wondering what a cold-pressed juice is. Well, the answer is simple – instead of using a heat inducing centrifugal juicer that lowers the nutritional value of the juice, these bottles of deliciousness are made with a hydraulic pressed juice extraction that’s slow and, best of all, cold.

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But Raw Press isn’t just about the juice. There’s also an amazing range of vegan salads and snacks by the immensely talented Ella Woodward. For less than a tenner, you can order a giant plate of scrumptious Zucchini Noodles with homemade Brazil Nut pesto, Marinated Kale & Sweet Potato Salad, Broccoli & Avocado Salad and Chickpea & Squash Salad. All fantastically tasty and wonderfully good for you.

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And, there’s even a range of sweet treats (I particularly loved Ella’s Energy Bites and Banoffee Pie Pots). But the biggest surprise are her brownies – who knew they could be made with sweet potato and still burst with flavour? Yes the consistency is different, but the feeling of satisfaction when chomping your way through? Exactly the same.

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So there you have it. You can enjoy a varied, delicious diet free from fish and meat, which juice bars like Raw Press inspire. I’m not saying goodbye to sausage & mash, spag bol or fish pie, but vegetables are now playing a larger part in my life – hell, I even threw a vegan dinner party last night.

Raw Press, 32 Dover Street, London W1S 4NE

Fika, Brick Lane

‘Magical’, ‘authentic’ and ‘darkly seductive’. Ambitious adjectives used to describe Fika. Adjectives I chose to ignore, putting them down to pure PR drivel.

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Turns out, the PRs are spot on – Fika is a charming, Scandinavian restaurant that’s well worth a visit. The interior perfectly captures the delightfully unique nature of Brick Lane and the food looks good enough to be served at a banquet for fairies, elves and goblins.

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Em and I sat upstairs on the restaurant’s quirky roof terrace. We drank Prosecco and ate like Queens of an enchanted land, starting with Beetroot & Birch (£5) and Tre Sorters Sill (£5.50).

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Served on a round slab of wood, Beetroot & Birch was made up of a warm, miniature loaf of savoury beetroot bread, goats cheese, foraged wood sorrel and a shot of birch tree water. The flavours were earthy, simple and – even though I left the somewhat superfluous shot – really rather wonderful.

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Across from me sat Em’s Tre Sorters Sill – three flavours of pickled herring on crushed purple potatoes with blobs of dill yoghurt. The potatoes were deliberately cold, so not particularly tasty on their own. But, the overall effect was again very good.

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We chose completely different mains – I went for rich, sweet Swedish Elk Meatballs (£10.20) that I now want to replicate at home (pass the Elk please). As for Em, it was Foraged Salad with Goat Cheese (£12), which combined some unrecognisable leaves and flowers, along with quail eggs, samphire and black truffle potato. Calorie wise, it was nice to know you could be very good, or very bad when dining at Fika.

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My Kladdkaka was hands down the best chocolate brownie / cake / whatever you want to call it I’ve ever had (£4.60). Chewy on the outside, melting on the inside, it was beautifully presented as a flower (in case you were wondering…) with an equally pretty floral shaped scoop of Vanilla ice cream on the side.

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Em had Fresh Mint Granita, which was luminous on arrival (£5). I wouldn’t have traded my Kladdkaka, but the mixture of beetroot, fresh fruit and berries seemed to go down well.

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Fika proves you should never judge a book by its cover (or prologue). It oozed charm and made our eyes light up with every dish (example below). So for that, it gets a LLE Rating of 7.5/10.

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Fika, 161 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

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