Half of the first month gone in the new year. Somehow I felt a bit behind in moving to 2016 – you know all the good intention and action based things lined up to do. You see last quarter of 2015 have been action packed revolving around traveling, accomplished another city marathon and an ultra-race that ended up with a visit to a fashion headquarter, witnessed games of a lifetime, packing up ENTIRE THINGS to new island home as well as training for a race in January. So I would like to synchronize SOTG’s Instagram posting into this blog. A tad warning on the length of this post – otherwise please don’t miss on travel and food discoveries of various cities I blessed to have visited.
- Trip to Burough Market added excitement to my deep interest on food. I enjoyed meeting the key community that connect the foodsource to the end market. This place is a haven for food lovers to sample high quality food. Braving the cold autumn morning, I tasted amazing granola from Mini Magoo, sniffed the aroma of heavenly divine black and white truffles (at Tartufaia), and then stumbled across famous coffee joint thanks to the constant queue outside the Monmouth Coffee (so hooked that we took friends to another joint at Covent Garden the day after). You can also find lactose friendly ice-cream made from goat’s milk (at Greedy Goat), different flavoured of homemade mustard, herb and spiced sea salt, caviar of sea salt, Lord London cheese (said to have served at the Royal wedding), liquid gold of wheat grass, and freshly made apple cider. Konditor & Cook just beside Monmouth if you need a sugar treat – one of London’s best for brownie and cake alike. Found Arabica that serves fresh made local street of Levant such as Damascus falafel and free range chicken shawarma.
- Lunch at one of best vegan in town, Wild Food Cafe despite a bit of walk way from main Covent Garden area, on behind alley of Neild’s Yard. You cannot miss the big windows usually open for fresh air that also lighten up the place situated on first floor. The ‘raw’ definition mentioned on menu as ‘Dish prepared under 42 degrees Celsius’. Some clever innovation here I must admit. Lunch pick was 6oz Wild Steak served with seaweed tartare, poached cherry tomatoes and baby broccolis. Another seaweed ingredient used in the steak called dulse seaweed that is said to contain high iron. Rest of ingredients in the steak are shiitake mushroom, olive and sun flower seed. Steak tasted nutty and felt healthy – a bit like falafel taste except that it’s ‘raw’ not fried. Not a mayonnaise fan so I appreciated the coconut and chive mayonnaise vegan version served with this burger. My partner had The Wild Burger served with in-house flour-free seed bread. The burger made of shiitake mushroom and olive that came with salsa verde and smoked baba ghanoush. Both dishes fueled us in a clean manner and we felt very fulled – much needed for the in 2 days’ time. For smoothie lover if you need a bit of whip and dash of ecstasy, try their Wild Whip or Forgotten Ecstasy – fulled with superfood ingredients. Oh how about various types of mushroom tea or kombucha fermented type drink? Don’t forget dessert if you love treat that is raw like raw chocolate tart or young coconut Banoffee pie. Honestly fell in love with this joint and will definitely return to experience more on menu that is cleverly created as well as exotic. Only wish the friendly staffs are well train to know a bit more about the ingredients when asked about ‘what is dulse steak or algarroba.’
- Paid a girl-must-visit to Harrods (why wouldn’t you?) plus bistro stop at Demoiselle by famous Galvin brothers’ French establishment to savour: veloute of wild mushrooms with chestnut brioche and smoked anchovies with piquillo peppers. Then, satisfied craving for matcha at Roots and Bulb in South Kensington for lovely iced latte – my healthy way for no-carb afternoon tea. They also serve healthy superfood juices, wholesome foods and healthy snacks.
- Windsor is special to me. Not sure if it housed Windsor Castle (one of the official residences of the British Royal Family), the charming shopping precinct or plain green of the Long Walk. It’s the sense of familiarity and friendliness of returning to a place that is so comforting. Only this time the Long Walk is the most stunning as I witnessed the yellow lines trees on field filled with dried golden leaves. Did usual run along the easy track of the Long Walk that end with amazing copper horse statue of King George III. From here amazing view of Windsor Castle more than enough to reward 5 times hill repeats from base of statue to top. A very fast veteran runner (who claimed to be a sub 2.30 hour marathon runner) had a friendly chat and proudly mentioned that Mo Farah (Great Britain gold medalist for 5km and 10km) trained at his running club – Hounslow Athletics Club, later merge with Windsor (Read here about his beginning and inspirational success story). Misty morning the day after bid us farewell, but Windsor is a place I will definitely return to.Thanks to acquaintances and friends alike who make Windsor felt like home whenever in London. Dining wise – tried and tasted The Two Brewers opened since 1792 (near the entrance to the Long Walk) which always bustling every time I passed by and Bell & The Dragon steeped in English heritage opened since 11th century (love the Gooey Gluten Free Chocolate Nemesis especially after friendly banter on what nemesis meant).
- Twickenham Stadium for Rugby World Cup’s Final (a match of a lifetime to witness the mighty All Black won against its cousin Wallabies and retain Web Ellis for the third time) and Quarter Final (Springbok versus passionate Wales). Endurance runner I am, but also a die-hard rugby fan – though admit still learning about the rules that sometimes can be a bit tricky. Great games aside, what I also enjoyed was the incredible atmosphere around the stadium and the village. There are many good restaurants, bars and pubs around Twickenham. Must visit that are unique to the prestigious stadium are; The Cabbage Patch renowned for the best rugby pub in the world (named after the stadium’s nickname as the stadium site was used to grow cabbages), The William Webb Ellis (named after the man who is said to have invented the game) and The Scrummery (its Match Day Menu that require prior reservation only few minutes to the stadium). Unfortunately the places packed with massive crowds and since we arrived a little late, we nipped into Waitrose at the village area for a quick and convenient bite before match begin. No gourmet but definitely the healthiest option around (maybe cleanest toilet too)! One of the memorable moment at the Quarter Final was when we reluctantly dashed out of the stadium before the final whistle blown, ran along the Rugby Road to catch Uber’s cab; while at the same time put our head by the window of various bars to check the game’s result–all credit to the marathon next morning in less than 12 hours!
- 40th Amsterdam Marathon – apart from lack of sleep, early morning start, and crowded queue in the train station (apparently teenagers from all corner of the country were in town and they still wide awake from night fun at DJ party), weather was not kind to us. Cold, chilly and a bit of drizzle. I must say that this race is a bit expensive as runners did not get much from the ‘goody bag’ in term of value and promotional items compared to other city marathon I’ve participated. Overall, great city run if you fancy some music bands with performances along the way and route that covers iconic buildings, parks and river. I ran in group – the 4 of us until roughly about 25km mark and then after that pretty much solo run like I normally did. No cramp issues but lack of strength to maintain the same pace and perform negative split at the end. At the finishing line of Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, seeing Karin from headgear brand Capsters and her husband made the run worth every strides (I’m one of the Capsters’ role model – hope you don’t mind the shameless plug here).
- Went for dinner for post-marathon recovery at nearby Indonesian restaurant called Djago suggested by Karin (means the Great or the Master) to feast the vibrant Dutch’s colonial history over literally mean ‘rice table’. We were served with trays of variety dishes to share together; chicken satay, sweet soy pork, egg sambal, chicken rojak, as well as vegetables dishes (tofu, bean sprout, long bean, and gado gado), and fried bananas. Love to see how this kind of dishes being interpreted to suit Dutch taste while still maintain the feisty, spicy and sweet flavour. The vegetables were a bit overcook to my liking. Great ambiance, value for money and friendly service.
- Breakfast at De Bakkerswinkel, Warmoesstraat 69 – one of Amsterdam’s oldest streets. Serve over 8 locations in the entire country, the bakery style shop showcased Dutch style of simplicity, nothing too fancy but taste good. And yes we got what we looked for – freshly baked breads (rye, sourdough), homemade jams (passionfruit curd, mango orange marmalade, strawberry) and cheese selections.
- Cheeses – what not to love about Dutch version especially Gouda and Edam is the consumption and production does not simply represent age and maturity but reflect various textures and flavours from combination of clever ingredients, herb and spices. From lavendar to nettle, cumin to sambal, basil to sundried tomato. My favourite is vegan goat for tang and melted texture. The shops in the central usually showcased all the cheeses for tasting. I could have stayed here for longer.
- The Funfair at Dam Square buzzing with a jolly experience and great way to sample some of Dutch treats like berlinerbollen (doughnut without hole filled with sweet jam), verse oliebollen (Dutch donut filled with raisins and dusted with powdered sugar), toffee and stroopwafel (syrup waffle). The boys insisted on sampling ‘poffertjes’, so a plate was purchased and shared among us. ‘Poffertjes’ basically little puffy pancakes mostly consumed outdoors during cold month cooked in a special dimpled copper pans. Served warm covered in powdered sugar and chocolate sauce, surely a delightful treat after marathon, no? Gluten-free and sugar-free diet had got to wait just a bit.
- Cycling around the city was a refreshing experience to look at city like the Amsterdammer. Grateful to be with our South African friends who speaks African (the amazing Nic and Tim) made our stay in the city more interesting – 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin as per Wiki. Candy floss in Dutch is called ‘suikerspin’, and in Afrikaans is called ‘spookasem’ which means ‘ghost breath’ – accurately described as we saw the lady at Dam Square with twirling machine that made the candy moved and flew softly like gentle breath of ghost. Now, I won’t eat candy floss ever.
- Dinner choice proved to be a tough one as we tossed between few places while leisurely walked along Jordaan suburb. We settled in a little basement joint called Restaurant de Struisvogel – the winner of 2014 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in Amsterdam. Famous for ostrich meat dish, it serves organic and cater for any food allergies. We picked 3 course menu at 26.50 Euro (seafood bisque, fish of the day ‘en papillotte‘ and warm apple crumble with vanilla ice-cream). Did not disappoint for seafood lover like moi. Quality meals that came from fresh ingredients and great value for French style cooking.
- Flew to Urgup in Central Turkey for an ultra-race that I had to do in order to qualify for an important race in 2016. Intend to cover this in a separate race report in next post, so stay tune.
- In Istanbul, I stopped by at Modanisa headquarter for a quick interview and photo shoot. What an insight and priceless experience to be in the mother-ship of a leading online fashion portal. Luckily, I was not put to model any of collection – especially not 24 hours after a 24 hour kind of running race! But the December 2015 print issue came out not too bad at all – who would thought an ultra runner can be in fashion gloss wearing Caspters headgear and race finisher jacket? The interview published in Turkish (fyi in case you interested to peruse here.)
- Thanks to Modanisa team who took me to this historic establishment at Kanaat in Uskudar on the Asian side (great review here). It filled with all kind of traditional Turkish Ottoman style cuisine and by the entrance I found divine looking trays of dessert. I tasted Uzbek pilaf which is in-house famous dish, artichokes braised in olive oil, and earthy stew of meat and vegetables. For dessert, we picked few plates to share – the best was pumpkin in syrup sauce way too sweet for my liking but never mind a spoonful for tasting.
- Always a huge fan of Turkish cuisine and never exhaust me when chatting about it. Learnt that hair dryer is a ‘common’ prop to make barbeque or grill fire at restaurant, and how simit (Turkish version for bagel or pretzel) varies from one region to another in crispiness and shape. Those interesting dried odd looking items on string are in fact vegetables that can be stuffed or filled in (think stuffed eggplants or capsicums recipe) – must buy when next visit to Turkey. Those gummy chewy nut snack called pestil are made from dried thick molasses of fruit juice like grape of mulberry with added starch – prefer this than Turkish delight though.
- Next stop will be updated in future posts as I learn and discover the cranny and nook of the island – including my new kitchen and running playground. For on-time or instant update where I’m most active on Instagram, please join me @SO_TorchGinger.
Live to thrive.