Saturday, April 20, 2013

Watching the 'Footie'

 Football (that’s soccer for all you my fellow Americans) is a national obsession in the U.K. It’s not usual to come into work on Monday and chat all things football over a cuppa of builder’s tea in the office kitchen. If I haven’t stated before, I’ll do so now -- I am Tottenham Hotspurs supporter. It keeps the household interesting as Keenan is a fan of Arsenal (as are all my other London-based American friends). Yes indeed – the classic North London rivals. I don’t recall how I ended up choosing Hotspurs as my team. I believe five years ago as they are now, Hotspurs are somewhat the underdog of the elite clubs on the Premier League, and I always support the underdog. The battle of the top four seats for a place to compete for the Champions League title is intense. Manchester United will no doubt take the top place but as for the rest, it’s going to close. We’ll see…
 The other weekend we had the pleasure of attending an Arsenal game with another couple friend, compliments of Keenan’s work who has eight season ticket passes. It wasn’t a high-profile game like the one Keenan attended back in January against Man City but still, free tickets to see a top 5 Premier League team, we’d gladly take them. Our friend even put money on the game, and his prediction was right -- Arsenal won 3-1 against Norwich. It was a good game overall with a very exhilarating last 15 minutes. 
I haven’t spent much time around the N5 postcode where the Emirates Stadium is located, but the area around Finsbury is rough around the edge with streets lined with low-end shops. Holloway Road eventually runs into Upper Street in Angel, a trendy area to hang amongst the bonafide twenty-something year olds. After the game, we had dinner at Trullo, a lovely neighborhood Italian restaurant just a short walk from the Highbury Islington tube station. 
 We were impressed with the food, atmosphere, and the wine selection. Being meat-lovers, the boys shared the bistecca fiorentia served over creamy polenta which was delicious, the ladies each ordered a fish dish. All freshly prepared – overall enjoyable meal with good friends, good conversations, and good food.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Joys of Work Travel

These past few weeks Keenan and I both had a fairly intensive work travel schedule. It’s one of the perks of living and working in London – traveling around Europe both for business and pleasure.
Sometimes business travel can be a drag especially those day trips which require you to be at London City Airport at the crack-ass of dawn, and returning late in the evening. I’ve done a few of those crazy trips this month, once to my least favorite place for business travel – Luxembourg (it’s all work and no play) and a hectic last-minute business trip to Warsaw with my boss’ boss (Partner of Project Finance). Talk about pressure…
It’s not all bad -- I got to travel to some nice places, for example Barcelona which is one of my favourite European cities. Client meetings ended early so my colleagues and I spent the afternoon basking in the glorious sunshine whilst drinking cava near the beach.
Keenan also spent a week in Italy for a recent engagement, traveling between Milan, Florence, and Naples (and of course eating pizza and pasta along the way).  Below are some snap shots of a few photos during our work travels. Enjoy!

Night stroll through the streets of Milan - commercial, fashionable, orderly (relative to other Italian cities)

Florence: artistic, impressive Duomo, and yummy gelato

Beautiful Barcelona: sun, cava, jamon, Gaudi's world, and beach

Warsaw: On two business trips to the Polish capital, I only saw this Norman Foster building on Pilsudski Square and the nearby Warsaw Sofitel Hotel.

Luxembourg:  my favourite building.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

“La Grassa”: Bologna

Each spring (well it’s been freezing in London so spring has not arrived if ever), we look forward to the long four-day Easter bank holiday weekend. This year we took off  to Bologna, otherwise known  as “La Grassa” (the Fat One) and for good reasons: all the amazing food produced in the region of Emila-Romana --- Parmaesan cheese, Parma ham, Mortadella, Balsamic vinegar, just to name a few.  

It is also the birthplace of lasagne, ragu pasta (Bolognese), and tortellini, all the rich meaty Italian dishes we all grew up loving. Needless to say we spent the weekend eating our way  through this charming city, marvelled at the old medieval architecture (Due Torri and Santo Stefano), and enjoyed long strolls under the city’s 40 km of covered arcades (portici). Eating in review – buon appetito!


Tamburini – a great little deli shop with gorgeous fresh pastas to oogle at that will make your mouth salivate. For lunch, we ordered a huge plate of Italian ham and cheese, paired with several glasses of local wines. The whole area around Mercato di Mezzo is a foodie paradise; spend the afternoon browsing through little markets selling Italian hams, local cheese, and fresh produce.

Aperitif – between 5 and 8 pm, most people have an aperitif which comes with tapa-style snacks, but be careful not to fill up on these before dinner.


Da Silvio – a friend recommended this place. Had I known it was a set menu of all you can eat, I would have saved my appetite.  There is no menu and no prices – set menu was €40, I believe. They serve you with 10 different appetisers, different pastas , and then the main dish – veal,  plus all you can eat dessert. Goodness, way too much food.

Trattoria de Rossa – a favourite of locals and tourist; this is a great place to sample home-style cooking at very good prices. Keenan was on a mission to find the best Bolognese in town, and I tried to the Tortellini in Brodo (Tortellini in Soup). 

Eatly- our second lunch of the day; we went to Eatly, a bookstore, gourmand shop selling craft beers, local wines, and high-end pasta sauces. The 2nd floor restaurant was closed by 3pm so we went to the bar upstairs for a plate of  Mortadella, Carpaccio, and a bottle of red wine from Piedmont. Great atmosphere and good people-watching.

La Sorbetteria on Via Castiglione – arguably one of the best place for gelato in Bologna. Order the pistachio.

Mariposa Trattoria – recommended by our BnB owner, Mariposa is like going to your grandma’s house for good home-style cooking. No surprise, Keenan ordered the Bolognese and I had tortellini with zucca (pumpkin). Very affordable; very local kind of place. 


On Easter Sunday, we followed the 666 arches up to  Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. It was a gorgeous day for a leisurely walk overlooking the countryside. 

We ended up at Eatly again, but this time at their 2nd floor restaurant where we had Easter lunch over pasta Bolognese and Spaghetti Amatriciana , followed by traditional roast lamb and Jerusalem artichoke.

Grom – another popular gelato shop. It was open on Easter Sunday.

Apertivo at Zanarini on Piazza Galvani for a strong old-fashioned and a classic spirtz with a splash of Campari.

Pizzeria Ristroante le Brace – with no luck getting into other restaurants on our list, we stumbled upon a great pizza place that also specialise in seafood. So full, I wasn’t sure if I could eat dinner. Keenan ordered a massive pizza and I ended up ordering seafood pasta, which neither of us could finish.


E’Cucina Bologna -  we found  this lovely place next to our BnB. Headed up by Cesare Maretti and Jamie Oliver disciple, this hip little bistro has a great three-course lunch menu for €20 which includes: starters, mains, dessert, coffee, mineral water, and wine.

De Cesari – our last and final meal in Bologna. A classic meal with pasta ragu and tortellini, followed by steak, one smothered in truffles and the other was over a balsamic reduction sauce. Delicious! A lovely dining experience. 

Needless to say, our waistline dramatically expanded over the long weekend. Time to work off the calories before our next foodie adventure in San Sebastian, Spain.