Langoustines — Second (maybe 3rd or 4th) Best Dish at St. John

Norwaylobster

 

Langoustines or Norway Lobsters look much like small (more pink than red) versions of the lobsters we are used to seeing in fancy American restaurants.  They can grow to be up to 9 inches long are usually found in the Atlantic or Mediterranean.  Aside from the famous bone marrow and delectable madeleines at St. John they are my favorite dish (except maybe the ox heart and Tamworth with endive).  To eat them you have to pull off the heads (the more adventurous might suck out the brains). They are delicately sweet and delectable when dipped in savory home made mayonnaise and perfect with champagne.

Best Fish and Chips in London

Fish

Yeah you heard me. It’s crisp on the outside and tender and flavorful inside.  The tartar sauce is homemade and creamy and tangy. Great Sunday roast too (note how lovely and rare the meat is). 

Roast

Oh and charming surroundings and attentive service.  Where’s this you ask? The Water Poet near Spitalfields Market.  Check it out and then wander the market and Commercial Street for some interesting (and cheap) shopping options.

P.S. I plan to have a few short posts like this in the future just to put out bits of information.  When Bob and I travel we find that the best tips tend to come from random blogs.  The plan is to just post a short blurb of information about great places we have eaten in various cities (hopefully with at least a couple of pictures).
Maybe it will be helpful in case anyone ends up in London or Damascus … yeah that’s coming up :).

 

Lardo!

LardoMenu

Lardo is taken from the layer of hard fat along the pig’s back and cured with herbs and spices: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lardo.  You might not think that would be too appetizing.  You’re wrong. The best examples I’ve had in the US are are Momofuku Ssäm Bar where it’s whipped and served with bread (basically pig butter) (http://www.momofuku.com/ssam-bar/) and at Auberge du Soleil (http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/html/dining.php)  where it’s served more traditionally as part of an antipasti plate.

 

Most recently Bob and I had it in Florence at í Mangiarino  where it was served on toast with olive oil and tomatoes.  Wouldn’t have thought to put oil on cured fat but it was an excellent idea.

 

When prepared correctly and sliced thinly Lardo is a delicate and wonderful salumi.  When not so well done it’s just chewy fat (see the version at 2Amys http://www.2amyspizza.com/ where they make the best pizza in DC but haven’t managed to get the pig fat quite right).  If you see some anywhere give it a try.  Chances are you won’t be disappointed.

Samphire

Samphire2

Bob and I were in Italy for Ekin and Tolga’s amazing wedding and we stopped over in London for a couple days on the way back.  While there, we had a good deal of eating to do.  Most of it involved meat (a post on St. John will follow in the next couple of days).  But we aren’t totally single minded – we also had to get some samphire.  What is samphire you ask?  It’s delicious I say.  It’s a sea plant that tastes like a vegetal green potato chip.  If you want more technical info see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samphire

Because it doesn’t turn up too often on American menus I’d never tried samphire until I ate it at Ottolenghi in London in a wonderful salad with grilled asparagus and pine nuts (as an aside sometimes you see samphire called sea beans or sea asparagus on menus).  Every time I’m back there I search the favorite haunts to see if anyone has it on the menu.  Usually St. John doesn’t disappoint.  But this time no luck.  So we headed to Hawksmoor (which also serves the best steaks in London and was a favorite when I lived there: http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk/). Some pictures of our meal including the crab and samphire salad, the whiskey with huge ice ball and the sylabub are attached (as well as some pictures of fresh samphire at the fish stall at Borough Market).

Iceball
 

Samphire1
Oh wait! Whats’ syllabub you ask? It’s whipped cream with wine.  Enough said.  If not see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllabub.
 

Sylabub
That’s it for now, but the next post will probably involve something about lardo in Italy …