The Best British Candies

Okay Americans, it’s time to swallow our pride.

I mean, look…I love being American, really I do.

But we do NOT have the greatest selection of candy.

At it’s best, it satisfies the need for something sugary.

At its worst, it’s subpar, weird and all tastes the same.

What country has the best candy? Not the best high-end heritage single origin chocolate bonbons, but the best buy it in a drugstore, “2 bags for the price of 1″ candy?

That would be the UK.

This isn’t my opinion. This is fact.

Read on for the best candy in the world. All thanks to Her Royal Highness’s kick ass sugar-addicted dominion.

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 Tunnock’s Teacakes

Mallomars, get the hell out of town. These are the BEST MARSHMALLOW COOKIES ON THE PLANET EARTH. Buttery, crumbly, graham cracker. Crackly, creamy milk chocolate. And, in between, a pile of sticky, sugary, soft marshmallow fluff. Not a thin, bouncy layer. But a full, cloudy, finger smudging pillow of marshmallow fluff. I dare you to eat fewer or more than two. Fewer and you will be left wanting, and more and you will immediately vomit from sugar intake.

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2. Wine Gums

So many millions of times more delicious than gummy bears. These round or oblong pastilles are firm with an almost waxy texture. As you suck on them, they start to dissolve and suddenly become chewy and burst with flavor. The flavor is really where they come through. Zesty lime, tart blackcurrant, and sweet orange are my favorite flavors. I can go through a whole box of  these at once – Maynards is a personal favorite. And fyi – no nasty black licorice will ever pass through my mouth. Blech.

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Mr. Kipling Tasty Cakes

Okay, this isn’t really what they are called, but who cares what kinds of treats you get from this line? Petit fours, Battenberg cakes – they are all aweome. It’s all about the moist, light cake inside, the smooth buttercream in the middle, and the thick layer of fondant-y icing. I am one of those people who loves the taste of fondant – the thick, uber sugary, teeth achingly sweet stuff that most people hate on their wedding cakes. The idea of selling bite-sized, shelf stable cakes as candy is such a great idea. It’s so satisfying with coffee or in the morning or alone as you built watch the Real Housewives…you know,whatevs.

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Flake Bar

Oh Flake…the very first British candy bar that I ever enjoyed. Layer upon layer of milk chocolate so creamy and thin that it melts before you have a chance to chew it. It does flake all over the places, so be prepared to be scrape chocolateycrumbs off of your shirt all day. It’s best when served straight up in an ice cream cone or mixed into a McFlurry.

Shut up, foreign McDonald’s is an awesome thing.

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5. Reese’s Cups

Just to make sure that you are really paying attention. Because, yes, we do have one candy that matches that of the superior British Empire. And it’s our very own creamy, nutty, sweet Reese’s cups.

Eaten 2 at a time of course.

Minetta Tavern – Your Everyday 4 Star Neighborhood Joint

I have a habit of visiting hugely popular restaurants 4-5 years after they burst onto the scene. I hate scouring for reservations. I can’t stand a big scene. And I really don’t like to be like everyone else, all clamoring for the same tuna crudo.

That’s why I finally got to Minetta Tavern on July 4 weekend, when I could finally get a reservation. Yes, it’s still super hard to get.

Keith McNally’s American-French bistro is clubby and steakhouse inside – kind of Old Homestead meets Sardi’s. You can feel comfy in jeans and a t-shirt or in a suit and tie. As long as you have a reservation and are prepared to pay the prices, you are a valued customer.

20140704_175307 I embarrassingly have no recollection of what this cocktail was called, but it had sherry, vermouth, Benedictine, and some other delicious spirits in it. It was made expertly by a friendly but professional bartender who directed my husband towards a delicious, rare rye. The wines are varied and fairly priced, but the cocktails are too special to miss.  20140704_181125 Gougeres

Not to the level of Marc Forgione, but puffy, cheesy, and airy. Very appetizing.  20140704_184341 Black label burger

Don’t worry, the excellent salty thin cut pommes frites were served on the side. This $30 burger was the toast of the city when it was premiered. It was called the burger to end all burgers, beefy beyond all beefiness. I couldn’t wait to try it. This is an excellent burger. It’s soft but not mushy and there is an overtly steak-y taste to it. The bun is awesome and the onions are too.  20140704_184439 But for a fancy pants burger? I’ll go here.  For a steak-y burger? I’ll go here. This is good, but not worth its cultish status. It was neither over the top decadent nor cheekily low end-high end. It was worth $18 – not $30. 20140704_190526 Cote de boef for 1

Now THIS was worth every pretty penny. I have rarely had steak this good in an actual steakhouse. Juicy, funky, umami heavy ribeye, seared until the outside is charred and the inside is bright red varying to a saturated rose color with nary an ounce of blood – perfect medium rare. It has a beefy chew but is quite tender, and the fat is rendered so it is crispy and irresistible. It comes with 2 huge marrow bones, seasoned with salt and meat drippings. It’s really the perfect accompaniment for bread. I would get this again yesterday – that’s how good it is.  20140704_200307 Berry and lemon cake

Light, creamy, all-American. A whimsical end to a very good meal.

And this was a very good meal.  I didn’t even photograph the excellent stretchy, buttery aligot, the rich crab sauce of the trout Meuniere, or the truly memorable butter and thyme carrots (literally my favorite carrots ever).  The service is unmemorable – a little rushed and somewhat lackadaisical. But this is just a very good, high-end neibhborhood bistro. It isn’t mind altering fare. It isn’t the most special meal ever. It isn’t even the greatest burger ever. It’s just a great meal that is delicious if you can foot the bill (thanks, wedding gift certificate!) and love steak.

Glad that I didn’t break my back to get here earlier, because while it’s delicious, it’s also a lot of hype.

Russ and Daughters Cafe – The Best Bagel of My Life

I mean, I really had a great eating weekend over July 4th.

And it didn’t involve any grills.

It did, however, involve this:

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Yep, the venerable Russ and Daughters Cafe.

The world-famous, decades old smoked fish emporium recently opened up a cafe around the corner from its teensy, temptation filled store. The cafe is open all day, offers the sandwiches that it always offered from the store, but now includes an expanded menu (including a full liquor list and a MEAN looking Bloody Mary), and ample seating.

It doesn’t take reservations but it is worth. the. wait.

20140705_112459 The cafe is done like an old-fashioned soda shop – a white counter in front with tables in the back, very comfortable stools with low backs so you don;t have to hunch over, and soda jerks in white jackets offering homemade egg creams (Fox’s U-Bet is the superior chocolate syrup on offer).

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LEO

This lox, eggs, and onions isn’t my favorite version in town, but it is excellent. Of particular note, the eggs are extremely creamy – no burnt or rubbery edges here. The eggs might be done by Daniel Boulud in the back – that’s how delicate and buttery they are. The lox isn’t super salty, but it is smokier than I prefer. The eggs ar sweet and soft and the brightly dressed salad alongside is a zingy counterpart. If you like a smokier lox, this would be your ideal version of the dish!

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Super Heebster

So good that I immediately texted the newest dad on the block and told him that when his son is ready for whitefish salad, he must have this iteration first. This is the single best bagel I have ever had. Creamy, mild whitefish salad mixed with baked salmon salad, spread atop horseradish cream cheese and topped with wasabi infused fish roe, all on a thin slice of toasted bagel. This is creamy, spicy, verdant, and hearty. The cream cheese really makes it - without it, this might seem too fishy. With it, it’s a perfect amalgam of everything Jewish comfort food. I’m not usually a fan of fish roe, but this is incredibly light and not at all bitter just a small, pleasant sting of wasabi. This is just perfect. Please get 2 of them.

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Chopped salad with whitefish and buttermilk dressing

The perfect way to round out your somewhat heavy and indulgent meal. Flaky, mild whitefish, lemony avocado, super sweet beets (those are really the standouts), and even some cruncy matzo. The apples and eggs are almost unnecessary, but the hit of fragrant dill really brings this salad to another level. This salad is excellent and I would order it again in a heartbeat.

20140705_120521 Blintzes with sour cream and compote

Mhm. Mhm, mhm, mhm. Get these for SURE. They simply must be deep fried – how else could they get so golden and crispy outside while remaining creamy inside? They are like cheesecake – sweet, rich, super creamy…paired with tangy sour cream and that sweet compote, it is great for either dessert or breakfast. I love dishes like that – sweet enough to end a meal but not a total sugar bomb.  20140705_120525

 Bread pudding

The best I have ever had. Others need not apply. This is the now and future king of bread puddings. Studded with sweet, sticky, juicy apricots, the top layer tastes deep fried and sugary. The inside is almost soft enough to eat with a straw, but isn’t at all liquidy. It’s just super soft and vanilla-y and creamy, and delicious.

Russ and Daughters is AWESOME! The staff couldn’t be more delightful or attentive (one server actually tried to replace one dish that we didn’t like – we told him that it was our fault, not theirs – it just wasn’t our cup of tea – and he was terribly distraught. Love him), the prices are high but fair, and the food is the best. Updated versions of all your favorite deli classics.

I’ll see ya around a Super Heebster.

Craveable Bites

Some delish tastes that I suggest you enjoy this weekend

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Bloody Mary at The Ellington
This UWS tavern is a real gem! It’s bright and breezy with games on the tvs but enough space in between tables to allow for long, leisurely lunch talk. It’s ideal to sit inside on a hot day for the chill of the air conditioning while the sunshine blared in through the open doors and walls. The food is cheap and good (nothing groundbreaking, but their burger and freshly cut fries sure fit the bill) but the drinks are really awesome. Quite frankly the Bloody Mary is one of the better ones I have enjoyed in the city. It’s truly tomatoey – bright, sweet, and juicy. It is hit with a good amount of vodka for a peppery edge, and there is a salty, complex finish that has to be a good dollop of Worcestershire and horseradish. This isn’t overly fancy and it isn’t pricey – it’s just one swell drink.

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Chicken salad at Joseph Leonard
This place deserves every rave it gets. The staff is friendly, the surroundings manage to be cozy but not cramped, and the food is made with a lot of care. From the gigantic pot of salty cornichons at each table to the individual French press coffee posts, this places is lovely and tasty. To order a chicken salad in a renowned restaurant sounds so stupid but it’s even better than one that your mom would make you. Peppery watercress, sharp pickled shallots, this incredibly creamy and lush goat cheese and chicken that is so tender and juicy that it almost seems illegal. It’s not complicated, but the flavors work so well together that it seems much fancier and more indulgent than it is. Major win.

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Doritos Loaded at 7-11

Trust me, I hate myself for liking this. I hate myself for even trying this, but it WAS for a story…that of course, I pitched…because I wanted to try it. What do you WANT from me? I am trashy to the core! This is gooooooooood. It’s creamy, stretchy, melty, tangy. It’s salty, crunchy, crispy, Doritos-y. Don’t eat more than one at a time.

Or stop at 3, at least.

Great sober and REALLY great when less-than-sober.

Wedding Planning in NYC: Food Tasting at Essex House

The menu tasting.

The day that I had simultaneously been looking forward to and fearing since the day that we booked our venue, Essex House.

Looking forward to – well, the reason is obvious.

Fearing – look, when you are as obsessed with food as I am, your friends expect a lot. They have high standards and they are going to come to your wedding in forgiving stretchy dresses and loose pants sizes. And we booked at a hotel…I was nervous that we were going to get standard banquet food. You know the type…mushy chicken with flaccid skin and overcooked filet that had the flavor of beefy cardboard. I was real nervous, y’all.

I had no reason to be scared. The food was better than tasty. For an event of this scale, it was exceptional.

IMG_20140221_172255_959 From the moment that w sat in the swanky SouthGate restaurant, we were treated like VIPs (which, I guess we were, but still…okay by me!). Personalized menus, a discussion with the brand new banquet chef, personalized explanation of the dishes and the servingware used by the world’s greatest coordinator, Cecilia DeAngelis, and more food than we could possibly eat.

But we tried our best.
IMG_20140221_173119_038 Prosecco Bar

Okay, this was awesome.

My mom got the idea from Lincoln’s prosecco bar - Prosecco offered with mix and match fruit purees and liquors to create your own signature drink. We asked Cecilia if we could offer this for an hour at the reception and she made it happen.

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Major happiness ensued.  IMG_20140221_174001_903 Pretzel rolls

Because, wow – pretzel rolls make it HAPPEN. I also made a very diva request that the butter be served spreadable – nothing worse than ice cold butter that just won’t spread on bread. It would have totally taken away from the thick, toasty crust and the soft innards. They delivered on the spreadable butter. Thank you! IMG_20140221_175034_601 Crispy chicken confit with gnocchi, Cabot clothbound cheddar, spinach, and maple pepper lardon crisp

Why didn’t I eat more of this at the time? I’m crying just remembering how delicious this was. The chicken is juicy and crispy at the same time, served atop pillowy gnocchi that soaks up the rich chicken juices. The bits of crunchy lardons are smoky, sweet, and a little spicy. And that clothbound cheddar is one of my favorites, with a calcium crystal-studded texture and nutty, salty, umami flavor. It’s not cheap, either! It really says something that this is a plain ole option when you book at Essex House. You are really getting what you pay for – no nameless mild cheddar substitute here.

IMG_20140221_175042_094 Smoked salmon tartare and rosette with caramelized pear and spring leek tart with Dijon vinaigrette

The winner across the board – we all loved this. Unique enough to stand out but not just unique – also delicious and appetizing. The smoked salmon tartare is light and fresh, bound with a creamy, tarragon inflected dressing. The tart is sweet, providing the perfect creamy counterpart to the lush smoked salmon. It’s unexpected but also familiar – at a Jewish NYC wedding, we have all had smoked salmon once a week since birth! The Dijon vinaigrette is light and acidic, pairing well with the sweet pears. This was an excellent dish and I would eat it again tomorrow.

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Pan roasted Atlantic Salmon (front) and roasted Chatham cod with wilted leeks, sweet onin risotto with lardons, and New England lobster fricassee

The salmon in front is good – moist, seared to a lovely medium rare and served over some nutty black rice. It was just not exceptional. I could make it at home, and more to my tastes.

But the cod…

OMG…the cod. Whoa. This is an outstanding preparation. The cod is moist and very mild – none of that overtly fishy taste that less than fresh cod has. It’s slightly crispy on top and covered with what can only be described as creamy, sherry scented lobster bisque with hunks of sweet, buttery lobster. The risotto underneath manages to be creamy yet not gluey – hard work for risotto done on a mass scale. Though I loved it with the smoky, fatty lardons, the venue was accommodating enough to offer this kosher style for our many kosher guests.
I told everyone to get this.At the tasting, it was my number one favorite.
IMG_20140221_182948_828 Beef short ribs with potato dauphinois and bordelaise reduction

Of course, the night of the nuptials, I was in the mood for red meat, so I got this honkin behemoth of short ribs. Note to future brides – never go with the filet for your option. It’s just impossible to cook it to each person’s liking and if it has to be done ahead of time – which of course it does – it’s going to get dry and rubbery. The short ribs actually only get better after sitting around for awhile, and these are tender and robust, with scalloped potatoes and a deep, winey sauce.
IMG_20140221_185918_205 Lemon meringue pie

Buttery shortbread crust cradles a tangy, smooth lemon curd filling. Small, tanned peaks of impossibly airy meringue are capped with gold leaf for a sweet, decadent dessert that basically screams bridezilla in the loudest, best way possible. Some tart berry ice cream and an excellent (a little soft, but wonderfully chewy and bright) macaron would make this a perfect dessert along with the cake.

But then…
IMG_20140221_185942_737 Chipwich

This came into our lives. Smooth vanilla ice cream between two sturdy yet biteable chocolate chip cookies. I mean come. on. This is just what you want to eat in your fancy clothes after dancing so hard that you threw out your back. This dessert blew our minds, and our guests minds, too. Something this fun and whimsical perfectly fit our fun and pretty whimsical wedding. Classy right up until the end, when cravings took over.

Any foodie would be thrilled with the food options at Essex House. The team is a dream to work with, the options are limitless, and the food really tastes so delicious.

Toldja I would eat at my own wedding. 

Sponsored Post: A Match Made in Heaven with Rioja Wine and Friday Night Dinner

Every Friday night is family night in the Fritos and Foie Gras Household.
Why?
Well, because we are Jewish.
We aren’t great Jews (look, I like a cheeseburger as much as the next gal), but we are Jews. And one of our favorite things to do is light the candles and welcome in the sabbath with family and friends. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have to stick to roast chicken and matzoh ball soup.
So, in collaboration with Honest Cooking and Rioja Wine for the Match Made in Heaven campaign, I invite you to host a(non kosher…told you that we weren’t great Jews) tapas dinner. Rioja is a great wine choice for family and friends because it isn’t too pricey, is always ready to drink as soon as it hits the shelves, and ranges in flavors from sweet and jammy reds to crisp, fragrant whites. Rioja is also super food friendly – a good bottle of rioja blends really well with savory, overt, in -your-face flavors. Luckily, those are all flavors that I love.  which makes it ideal to serve with these Spanish-influenced dishes.
I chose a Faustino VII Tempranillo 2011, which is light and fruity, with plenty of cherry notes and a little bit of woodsy background. It’s ideal with this tapas dinner!
My favorite tapas of all times. Sweet, savory, and juicy – this is easy to do as a make-it-yourself station at dinner. Just lay out a few tomato halves, some toasted bread, cut garlic cloves, and salt. BOOM! Interactive dinner, complete!
Be still my heart. Here is where the rioja really shines. It stands up to the intensely spicy, citrusy zing of the jalapeno and fragrant fresh herbs and vegetables. It softens the almost abrasive hit of flavors and rounds out the edges. This can be served in cups so people can just sip as they move around the buffet table.
Usually albondigas are made in a tomatoey sauce with garlic and aromatics, but why not add a little of the Jewish flavor into this sabbath meal? These sweet and sour meatballs have been at every family party since before I was born, and they are almost too easy to be good. Except that they are really are so, so good. They are a meaty, sweet component in a dish full of bright, spicy, vegetal flavors.
Because it’s summer and we have to get some fresh fruit in her somewhere! The kale can be substituted for baby greens or even finely shredded Brussels sporuts if you prefer, and the peaches can be changed for nectarines or plums. Basically, do what feels right. This is a food that almost mirrors the wine exactly – it’s sweet and robust, complementing all of the other flavors at the table.
Not quite patatas bravas, but the next best thing. Crispy, salty, creamy inside and golden brown outside. Thse are great plain, but if you serve them with a little garlic aioli or mayonnaise mixed with chipotles in adobo, you will be in heaven.  You will have halitosis, but you will be in heaven.
Creme Catalan’s lower maintenance cousin. Yes to condensed milk. Yes to creamy texture. Yes to rioja suddenly becoming a dessert wine…whoa, when did that happen?
This is a great meal to serve with friends and family. Throw some jazz on in the background, open up a bottle of rioja and raise a glass to sharing your culture with your loved ones.  Rioja Wine is even making it easier by offering to help you create a wine pairing dinner of your own – just click on the banner at the top of the post!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated for writing it. 

Wedding Review: Ron Ben-Israel’s Delightful and Delicious Wedding Cakes

Remember when I said that I would go through all of my wedding food on the blog?

Okay,  after a quick jaunt to the Mediterranean, now we are back on track.

The most important part of my wedding was obviously the food. And, as I tend to do I focused most of my energy on the savory aspects. I agonized over samosas versus knishes, raw clams versus oyster croquettes, and franks in blankets or mini grilled cheeses. One thing I didn’t think about a lot was the cake.

Until I did.
IMG_20140217_085318_096 We were gifted an upgrade on our wedding package to include a cake by Ron Ben-Israel. Oh, you know, Mr. Sweet Genius himself. Lauded as America’s greatest wedding cake baker. Pastry chef extraordinaire to the stars.

And to us. Wow. Thank you for the this awesome gift, C – you know who you are.
IMG_20140217_090256_080 From the moment we walked into his SoHo studio, we knew this wouldn’t be the standard “here’s a spoonful of icing, what kinda cake do ya want” tasting. We were seated at a table and told to thumb through a book to see what kind of designs we preferred. No, not a picture book.
IMG_20140217_090312_827 An encyclopedia.  IMG_20140217_092925_178 As we waited momentarily for the main man himself, my then-fiance commented on how all the flowers looked so fresh. When I told him that everything on every one of the cakes was edible, he was incredulous.  IMG_20140217_092930_529 From the whimsical to the traditional, Ron Ben-Israel does it all.

And what a man he is. So kind. So funny. SO humble and so genuinely happy to be doing what he does. When he came out and shook our hands, you would think that he was a new baker who just needed his first gig. He seemed so grateful that we were working with him, instead of the other way around. He listened to our ideas and then gently steered us in a direction that would work better. He heard key words and tuned them into a concept. He did not rush or intimidate us. He was sweet, sincere, and was so happy when we asked to take a photo with him that you would never have known that he was a major tv celebrity chef.

But then we tried his cakes. And it was like…oh…this dude is very totally famous because J.H.C. is his stuff amazing.  IMG_20140217_093023_820 Citrus cake  -  moist and light, with a lemony, fresh zing that complements the gentle vanilla flavor. Sweet and refreshing at the same time.

Almond cake – my absolute favorite. Sophsiticated and subtle with slivers of crunchy almonds in a nutty, moist, tender crumbed cake. This was especially delicious with the Nutella ganache.

The best ganaches in this round were the lemon (bright, creamy, zippy), the coconut (fragrant, full bodied, utterly tropical), and the blood orange (tart, sweet, sharp). The Nutella was chocolaty, the raspberry was fruity, and the other flavors were all craveworthy, but these were just the standouts.  IMG_20140217_093028_441 Vanilla cake – very light and mild built to showcase the jewel colored ganache.

Chocolate - deep and fudgy, like Mississippi Mud.

Excellent flavors included the cookies and cream (I swear, they must have scraped the filling out of Oreos to get that flavor so precise!) the pistachio (intensely nutty and creamy), and the cappuccino (buttery, faintly coffee-esque, and quite sweet).

The flavors were all insane. We ended up going with the citrus cake (one of my best friends is allergic to tree nuts, and I couldn’t imagine her not being able to enjoy the almond cake at the wedding) with cappuccino, blood orange, and coconut fillings. I could have sworn that I would want a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but Ron Ben Israel showed me the light. He assured us that this flavor combination would be sophisticated and delicious, which is just how we wanted the food at our wedding to taste.

It was supreme.

And it looked…well, you can see how it looked.

SarahJosh_Reception_011 I know. It’s the prettiest thing that I have ever seen, too.

SarahJosh_Reception_390 And the most delicious cake that I have ever eaten.

This cake is expensive. But if you are deciding between high end cake makers, I can’t recommend Ron Ben-Israel enough. He is a doll and he does beautiful, delicious work. He will make your wedding dress bust at the seams.

I’m proud to say that I ate a ton at my own wedding.

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Thank you so much, Ron Ben-Israel, for making dreams that I didn’t’ even know I had come true. 

The Ritz London: A Legend in its Own Time

The last hotel of our stay was one of the most beautiful hotels which I have ever frequented. It was the ever luxurious, ever personalized The Ritz hotel.

Sister to the famous Ritz in Paris, this  hotel has been privately owned since it opened in 1906, and its motto may well be “too much is never enough.”

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From the moment that you emerge from your taxi and a top-hatted doorman rushes to help you with your bags and usher you into the gold and pink lobby, your feet barely touch the floor. You are offered a small tour of the hotel, through its vast floral displays, its cherub-bedecked dining room, and the tea salon that spawned a thousand imitators. Of course, if you decline, you are whisked away to your room, wich is a jewel box.

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Each room is filled with fresh flowers and unique touches – an original drawing here, and antique vase there. The tones are soft and elegant mint and blue. The bed is thick and luxurious, with a soft mattress and a large king size – not so common in Europe.

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Our room came with a vanity table so delicate and beautiful that I felt bad sitting there before my makeup was applied.

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The bathroom is beautifully appointed, with a towel warmer (why don’t we have these stateside?!), a double vanity, and a shower tub combination with a supremely deep tub that is perfect for relaxing after a long day of museums and shopping (more shopping than museums, if I’m being honest).

The toiletries are Asprey…only the best for The Ritz. They are so delicious smelling that I gathered them up each time we entered the room and – lo and behold – each time I came back, they were dutifully replaced. I must have gotten 6 shampoos in 2 days.

Of course, you could always go for one of the shamancier suites:

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Beautiful bedroom…

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Complete with a sitting room…
DSC_1107 and a lovely view of Green Park.  DSC_1105

Objets d’art surround every private and public room in this hotel.

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, if you are a visiting sheik or got rich off of a Youtube video, you may want to check out the Royal Suite. This suite, housed in the recently acquired William Kent house is…rather extraordinary. Though I could say a lot, I might as well just let the pictures speak for themselves.

DSC_1118 The house, with its private, hidden entrance to the rest of The Ritz.
DSC_1121 Entering an incredible suite.  DSC_1126 Oh, you know, the plain ole drawing room, with a table big enough for 12 people.  DSC_1129 The loveliest round bedroom, overlooking Green Park.  DSC_1134 Fabulous dressing area. DSC_1135 Not too shabby, right? DSC_1136 A cool elevator, because who uses stairs to get places? DSC_1139 A mural painted when the home was bought by the Ritz and restored. It’s painted in keeping with the Georgian style of the house… DSC_1142 with one cheeky exception! DSC_1143 More drawing rooms in the Kent house complex… DSC_1145 Including a beautiful drawing room… DSC_1146 with a golden, sculptured ceiling that would rival the Sistine chapel itself.  DSC_1156 The gold, mint, and rose music room, where intimate weddings might be held.

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Every person we encountered was incredibly kind and seemed to actually want to be there. From the butler (obviously, each room has a butler) who brought us a welcome tray of hot coffee and biscuits when we checked in to the doorman who shared his favorite place for fish and chips (“not too posh, but it’s where me mates go for a bite after work”), everyone seemed so damned happy to see us. Even if they weren’t…okay! This is what sets the Ritz apart. The service. The ability to be called by name and feel as though you are visiting nobility who has stayed there for eons who happens to be passing through an old friend’s home on your way to the country.

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Plus, if you are on your honeymoon, you might get these delivered to your hotel room…

photo 1 (1) And this set up. Beyond romantic.

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So, while London is a great city, between the afternoon tea, the private club downstairs (private restaurant, cigar bar, and casino only for members of the club or guests at The Ritz…very 007), and the gorgeous rooms, you may have problems leaving your hotel.

The most British, most elegant, most over the top luxurious hotel that I could imagine. This is romantic to the hilt and you can’t help but fall in love with the city, the hotel, and your traveling partner.

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The perfect way to end a dreamy honeymoon.

Disclaimer: I was given a media rate. All of my opinions are my own and unbiased.

Tomato Sandwich Redux – No Mayo!

When I read about this tomato sandwich on some food forum or other (what, you don’t spend your days trolling sites for restaurant reviews and recipes?), I knew that I had to try it. I have had at least 4,000 tomato sandwiches in my lifetime, but never one like this.

This isn’t your traditional tomato sandwich. 

Why, you ask?

Well, for one, there is no mayonnaise. Now, I LOVE tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, but sometimes, they can be a little too much – too creamy, too goopy, too messy.

Also, there are seasonings beyond salt and pepper. A TRAVESTY in the tomato-sandwich making traditional school of thought.

Also…well, it’s not really tomato season yet. It’s early. The tomatoes are fresh and juicy at the farmer’s market, but they aren’t quite those sweet, dripping with flavor, sun warmed tomatoes that August is sure to bring.

But it was a long winter. And I need some tomato sandwiches NOW. 

So, without further ado…here is the simple way to make a nouveau tomato sandwich.

20140702_074652 1. Take your piece of bread. I had sour rye, but fresh white bread or even some thinly sliced pumpernickel would work well. 20140702_074803 2. Spread it thickly with unsalted butter. The butter must be spread thickly and it MUST be unsalted. I always buy unsalted butter because it’s so easy to season your own butter to the saltiness that you prefer, and then you control the sodium. Also, keep that butter at room temperature when you are spreading it so you don’t tear the bread.  20140702_075109 3. Layer on your tomatoes, none too thinly sliced. The heartier the bread is, the thicker the slices must be. Also, the tomatoes aren’t fully flavored yet, so you need thicker slices to taste them fully. Come August, you can use a razor blade to cut those slices and still have the taste burst through.  20140702_075134 5. Top with your seasonings of choice – I prefer a spicy lemon pepper seasoning with red pepper flakes, salt, and dried lemon zest. 
20140702_075143 6. Eat openfaced, in front of the air conditioner and with an ice old root beer, if possible. 

This sandwich blew me away. The butter seems less important than the mayo is – it really lets the tomato be the star of the show. It is more of a barrier than anything else – it keeps the tomato’s juices from making the bread soggy. The bread was a good choice – a slightly sour bread highlights the tomato’s natural sweetness. And the seasoning was really exciting – tart and spicy and salty enough to make every other flavor sing. I really felt like such a rebel – who puts extra seasoning on their tomato sandwiches?! Who AM I?!

I’m jut a girl who was ready for a freakin tomato sandwich.

And it. was. good.

It’s Summertime – Here’s Where You Should be Eating Ice Cream!

It’s summer and it’s hot. I mean shorts wearing-sunscreen slathering-ice cream eating hot.

1. Shorts – cheap ones. So you don’t care if they get grass stains.

2. Sunscreen – at least spf 50 if you are a redhead, like me. Just call me Casper, the skin cancer-free ghost.

3. Ice cream – well, either of these will work:

20140529_145643 Oddfellows

This cult favorite import from Brooklyn has a tiny storefront in the East Village. I don’t think that the ice cream is worth a special trip, but if you are in the ‘hood and want a sweet, cold treat than come here. Though you could go for the very good, very rich chocolate ice cream, I suggest that you go for something a little more out of the ordinary.
20140529_145911 Thai iced tea ice cream

Well, there goes my of Thai iced coffee. This ice cream is so many times better than my favorite southeast Asian drink that I doubt I will ever order another iced coffee with my pad see ew ever again. This is smooth and dense but not hard – easy to eat with the plastic spoon. It’s very creamy and has a rich, buttery taste upfront followed by a light, herbal tea flavor. It’s refreshing but still indulgent and I would definitely get his again.

20140627_123824 Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Destination worthy. The Salty Pimp is where it’s AT. Soft serve that makes Mr. Softee look like the fraud he is. Deeply chocolaty Magic Shell. And, best of all, a salt flecked drizzle of ducle de leche that is so buttery and sweet that you might propose to it.

20140627_123843 I dare you to share it with someone. You will each need at least 2.

Gotta love summertime.