London – Big Night

 

 

“Take the stone out of the mango.

You put it in your mouth and pull a plum out.”

Kate Bush

“Eat the Music” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

The morning after the Kate Bush show found us happy. Happy and famished. This one meal per day business was for the birds, I tell you. We pulled on some clothes and headed around the corner to The Phoenix, our temporary local, for breakfast lunch. Neither of us wanted to overdo it, as we knew we had a Big Night before us. And by Big Night I mean a spectacular dinner reservation. Once sustenance had been obtained, we got in a bit more tourist-ing.

 

 

After making our way to the Trafalgar Square area, we stopped in St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. Years ago on a London trip without Mister, I had gone there almost daily for the lunchtime concerts. I wanted him to see how beautiful it is. Musicians were assembled and rehearsing a bit of Vivaldi. It was lovely.

 

 

There’s just something about this church that’s relaxing and calming. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones finding respite within its walls.

 

 

We then moved over to the National Portrait Gallery. As the name implies, this museum is filled with portraits – the largest collection in the world. Some are traditional, some are contemporary. It was a gorgeous outing, but I have no pictures as photography was not allowed. Still, I’m glad we went. There were some amazing works and I learned a lot.

 

 

At some point we realized we needed to get back to the hotel to ready ourselves for dinner. Dinner! We had made the reservation 3 months prior. That’s right – 3 months. Is it a hot ticket? Yes. Worth it? Dear Lord, yes. Anyhoo, we made ourselves presentable and traveled the short distance to Hyde Park and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Here’s the gist: Chef Heston Blumenthal has unearthed a bevy of old and sometimes ancient recipes. He has updated them to suit today’s palates and ingredients and serves these dishes in his beautiful restaurant. It ain’t cheap, y’all. But for a special occasion, I highly recommend it.

 

 

We had talked it over beforehand and decided to really be present at dinner, and to focus on the meal (and each other). So we have only a couple of photos of food from the entire night…

 

 

This dish is called Meat Fruit and the menu describes it thusly: Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread. The original recipe dates from between the 13th and 15th centuries (!) and is super-fabulous. I first learned of this amazing starter a few months back when I read a beautiful step-by-step, with photos. The tutorial didn’t make me want to prepare this dish, but it did make me want to eat it. And eat it we did. With gusto.

 

 

By the end of dinner, I was so pleasantly plump that I wished for a wheel barrow to take me to the hotel. Since none appeared, Mister and I took the Tube back and were ready for beddie in no time.

 

It had been another privileged day, and it wasn’t lost on us. Just before nodding off, we remembered what the next day held…

 

To be continued…

London – Kate Bush

 

 

“And I can hear my mother sayin’

‘Every old sock meets an old shoe.’

Isn’t that a great sayin’?”

Kate Bush

Moments of Pleasure” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

We woke to a new day and an anniversary. We knew we had the Kate Bush concert that night and were fairly bursting at the seams. But that wasn’t until the evening. Until then, there was time to tick an item or two off our tourist list.

 

 

As we’d slept in, we’d missed the appropriate time for breakfast. Instead, we set our minds to thinking about lunch. With that goal filed away, the two of us readied for the day and headed out. Our destination? Selfridges.

 

 

Mister and I have been watching the PBS-Masterpiece Theatre show “Mr. Selfridge” and we are hooked. It is now one of our “stories” and we’re not ashamed. While I knew of the store, it just wasn’t a place I’d ever wanted to visit during previous trips to London. But this time was different. Knowing a bit of the history of the place endeared it to us. What can I say? We wanted to see the house that Harry built. All in all, it’s a modern-day department store. It’s fabulous, of course, but it is a department store. The things we wanted to see were the clock outside and the ground floor. Some of it is original, but not much.

 

 

As we’d missed breakfast – again – lunch was in order. And since it was our actual anniversary, we decided to have ourselves a pretty sweet spread. And so we did.

 

 

After walking around the store and seeing most of what it had to offer, we headed out.

 

 

Now, our concert tickets held assigned seats. So there was no need to get there and wait for hours on end. But for some reason, I was keen to do just that. Mister’s cooler head prevailed, however, and we got there about 30 minutes before the doors were due to open. And yes, there was quite a queue. Everyone was so excited! People were smiling and appeared to be in great moods. Of course they were! We were all about to see Kate friggin’ Bush! And here’s something I noticed: the majority of the queue seemed to be male. Hmm. Anyhoo, a few minutes before the designated time, the doors were opened and the ticket-holders began filing inside. Hole-y doughnuts! It was happening!

 

 

The first stop for me and most everyone else was the merch stand. I had come on a mission not only for myself, but also for my friend Betro. She had requested a program and – get this – a piece of confetti. (For the record, I had no idea what she was talking about when she asked for confetti, as I had successfully avoided reading about the concerts before going. All I knew was that Betro had said, “Trust me – you want a piece of confetti.”) So Mister and I pressed toward the merch stand and did our best to be patient. With the exception of feeling a bit crushed by the enthusiastic throng, the process was pretty smooth. Again, you have to think about how excited we all were. This merch business wasn’t going to bring us down. Kate friggin’ Bush! When I was finally standing before the chick behind the counter, I was ready. I got programs for both Betro and us, t-shirts for Mister and for me and, because I couldn’t resist, I got myself a souvenir mug. I absolutely love it.

 

Once the merch had been acquired, Mister and I moved over to the bar for a cider. There was so much time before the show was scheduled to start and we were pretty amped. Frankly, the combination was hard to manage. I mean, unbridled excitement and patience are not BFFs. But sometimes you gotta buck up and settle down. And that’s what we did. We found our awesome seats and chilled. We watched the crowd and enjoyed everyone’s enthusiasm. The Eventim Apollo was fairly grand, too. A recent renovation has left the old gal gleaming.

 

 

As showtime approached, Mister and I noticed a group of folks being led in to stand against a nearby wall. We figured these were the fans we’d seen waiting outside, in a non-ticket-holder queue. Apparently there are a limited number of SRO (Standing Room Only) seats given out each night of the run. Those lucky few who made it inside were beaming from ear to ear, I tell you. And I doubt they ever tired of standing, either. Would you?

 

Anyhoo, after what seemed like an eternity… Wait. I guess when I think about it, I’d been waiting for this concert since I was 15. Not quite an eternity, granted, but quite a while. But I digress. So the house lights dimmed and we privileged few inside the theatre gasped in unison. It was time!

 

 

At this point, I’m going to tell you some of what I witnessed. I have no photos of the show, as Ms. Bush wanted her audience to focus solely on the stage and not on cameras or phones. (No worries on this front, however, as the show was being filmed. I’m thinking there’s a Live DVD in my future…) If you’re going to a show soon (there are a few more nights) and want to be surprised, stop reading now! Otherwise…

 

Though the stage lights hadn’t yet come up, we could see musicians taking their places and readying to play the first notes. With a bang, they did just that. The crowd roared! From house right the vocalists entered, in time with the music. And there she was! I could hardly believe it, but it was true. She moved in time with the music, taking her place at the center of the stage. The backing vocalists took their places, house left. Then Kate Bush opened her mouth and we heard that voice. It was as beautiful as ever. It was as strong as ever. It was, quite simply, as ever. “Lily” was the opening number and it was a bold – and for me, unexpected – choice. The song finished and we all jumped to our feet. After an appropriate applause break, we heard the 6 words all Kate Bush fans know and love: “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” Yes, “Hounds of Love” was next.

 

I think that was the first time I cried during the show. I wasn’t blubbering or anything. I just felt happy tears easing down my cheeks. And I couldn’t stop smiling.

 

After another standing ovation, “Joanni” began. And though I have heard this song many times before, it was more beautiful than I remembered. Just as I was coming out of that song’s spell, “Top of The City” began. And if anyone in attendance questioned Kate Bush’s ability to hit those high notes, her performance of this song crushed all doubt. Chicken skin, I tell you! Chicken skin! I was in awe!

 

Then the drums started. Those drums, friends. “Running Up That Hill” swept over the crowd. And we loved it. “King of the Mountain” came next and it, too, was beautiful. Unbeknownst to most of us, that song signaled the end to anything resembling a traditional rock show. For next we were shown a darkened stage and a large screen. A short video followed, setting up the piece of theatre that was to be the remainder of the first half of the concert. And what a remainder it was! Basically, we were all treated to “The Ninth Wave” – side 2 of The Hounds of Love record (“And Dream of Sheep”; “Under Ice”; “Waking the Witch”; “Watching You Without Me”; “Jig of Life”; “Hello Earth”; “The Morning Fog”).

 

To say a spectacular Musical ensued would be such an understatement, friends. The sets were astounding. The songs were familiar and fabulous. I was so the smitten kitten! As were we all, y’all. The production of “The Ninth Wave” left me wanting for nothing. When the entire band and all the singers walked to the front of the stage for an acoustic version of “The Morning Fog” to close out the first half of the show, those happy tears made another appearance. At the song’s close, all the performers left the stage and a beautiful red curtain descended to hide the stage. Because I knew nothing of what the second half of the show might hold, I failed to see the significance of the feather on the curtain.

 

 

After the intermission, the second disc from Aerial – “A Sky of Honey” – was performed in its entirety. Again, another brilliant musical production was witnessed. And loved. At its close, Kate Bush took the stage alone. Sitting at the piano, she performed “Among Angels” from 50 Words For Snow. It was quiet, yet strong. And if the show had ended there, I would have left the theatre happy. But the show didn’t end there. Instead, all the performers rejoined Ms. Bush onstage and with no hesitation, they launched into “Cloudbusting.” I honestly thought the roof would fly right off the building. When the song was nearly finished, Kate Bush encouraged the audience to sing along. And did we ever! Even Mister was crooning, and that guy never joins in a sing-along. Kate Bush kept encouraging us and we kept going. Those joyful tears were flowing in full force. And I seriously doubt my eyes were the only ones expressing themselves. Finally, the song ended. Kate Bush profusely thanked her fans, then exited the stage. The house lights came up and it was over.

 

Mister and I made our way to the Underground and back to our hotel. Our excitement for the show had overshadowed the fact that we’d had only one meal all day. At the hotel, it was too late for proper food, so we snarfed bar snacks like crazed monkeys. We also talked about the concert and how we’d never seen anything like it, and likely never will again. We also realized how fortunate we were to have witnessed that show. It was amazing and we were there! I couldn’t get over it. I still haven’t.

 

To be continued…

London – Museum Day

 

 

“One more step to the top of the city, where just a couple of pigeons are livin’

up on the angel’s shoulders.”

Kate Bush

“Top of the City” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

We arrived early evening on a Monday and sorted out everything belonging to that. Heathrow Express from the airport into town. The Tube to the area nearest our hotel. The hotel itself and unpacking. I was hesitant to admit it, but everything up until then had been so, well, easy. There were no incidents, no problems. Airport parking at LAX was easy. Checking in and boarding the plane was easy. The all-night flight itself was easy. Heathrow Express was beyond easy. We liked our room. Easy! After a light snack, we tucked in and tried to sleep.

 

 

Mister and I had arrived in London armed with a list of things we wanted to do. Some of the items were from our own brain holes, some were suggestions culled from various friends. With those plans in mind, the first day found us on foot, looking for The London Eye. This particular to-do had never been done by either of us during previous visits. But first, food. We had seen Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover – London” and knew what a taxi stand looked like. And by taxi stand, I mean a place for drivers to grab a bite. We spotted the green clapboard and headed over for a Bacon Butty. One each, please.

 

 

Once food was checked off the list, we continued across the Thames toward The London Eye. It was overcast and good weather for walking. Full bellies helped, too. But once we got to The Eye, we looked at each other and realized neither of us really wanted to get on the danged thang. It wasn’t cheap, but that wasn’t the deterrent. It would take quite a while to go all the way around, but that wasn’t it, either. I don’t know what to tell you. It just wasn’t our thing. Content that neither of us was depriving the other of a ride, we walked away.

 

 

Back along the Thames, Mister and I strolled and took our time. It was still pretty early, but the riverfront was coming alive. Street performers were getting their costumes readied. Mothers pushing prams began crowding the walkway. Restaurants and shops began opening their doors. We walked past the National Theatre, where a lovely statue of Laurence Olivier resides. And we also saw some street artists in the act of creating.

 

 

Just when we were starting to feel closed in by the growing crowd, we spotted The Tate Modern. I had been before but Mister’s Tate cherry was intact. We headed inside and succumbed to the amazing collection. I love The Tate Modern. There’s something about all that contemporary art being housed in one location that triggers a particular appreciation in me. It seemed to work for Mister, too. When we wound our way to the Mark Rothko room, I pulled Mister aside and said, “Look. The last time I was here, I had a religious experience. I’m going to leave you alone while you go in. See you in a bit.” And with that, he turned and entered.

 

 

Those Rothko works – The Seagram Murals – really get to me. I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. But there’s just something about them, something that grabs my soul and doesn’t let go. The first time I saw them I cried. This time I was just quiet. No tears. The awe was still there though, and I marveled at how Rothko was able to paint such seemingly simple works – works more complicated than I can comprehend.

 

 

After a while we needed a break. So we headed up to the top of The Tate for drinks. The view was lovely and the drinks were pretty nifty, too. After all that museum-ing, it was good to sit. We talked about what we’d seen and what we wanted to do with the rest of our dwindling day. Once the drinks were downed, we made our way out and back across the Thames. Our intention was to walk through St. Paul’s Cathedral and get an eyeful of that. When we got there, however, we were too late. So we pointed ourselves toward our hotel and got to stepping. Once there, we realized we hadn’t eaten since the morning’s Bacon Butties, so we changed clothes, headed back downstairs and asked the doorman for a good local. That guy did us right, I tell you, and we walked the short distance to The Phoenix. The joint was hopping, and after a short time we understood why. Not only was it charming, it was also friendly with good food and drink. And being right around the corner was none too shabby, either.

 

 

Anyhoo, we drank and ate to our hearts’ content and then we walked back to the hotel. Though we were jet-lagging, we were wiped out from our fantastic day of being tourists. We got ready for bed and as we were falling asleep, we remembered our concert tickets. The show was the very next night…

 

To be continued…

Food as Art

 

 

Y’all know I’m a big old food dork, right? Right. So when I saw this ad for British store Marks & Spencer, my eyes nearly welled up. It’s so gorgeous and so tempting. I highly recommend a viewing.

 

As I live in L.A. and not in the UK, I can’t just bop over to M&S to check out the goodies. But I do adore these visuals. Enjoy!

Peach Rumba!

 

 

Mister wanted a drink. And I’d been itching to use a Peach Shrub I’d made 2 weeks prior. What’s that? What’s a Peach Shrub? Well I’ll tell ya.

 

I’d been reading about Shrubs for a few months when the Use Real Butter chick introduced me to a recipe on her blog. When she got around to blogging a Peach Shrub, I knew it was time to give it a try. I followed her instructions, y’all. The only difference I made was to wait 2 full weeks before using the concoction. I did try it after one week, but it was far too acidic for me. After 2 weeks, the magic elixir had mellowed just enough to make me very, very happy.

 

Anyhoo, back to Mister and that drink. He wanted bourbon, but I thought I’d give rum a shot. So I got my ingredients together…

 

 

Spiced Rum, Peach Shrub, Seltzer Water/Club Soda and ice (not shown).

 

Fill a short glass with ice and pour in 1 ounce of Spiced Rum.

 

 

Then add 1 ounce of Peach Shrub.

 

Top off with Selter/Club Soda and that’s it! This summery cocktail was so sophisticated and fun. The Spiced Rum gave just enough kick to add interest, and the Peach Shrub brought it all home.

 

 

I have to say, now that I know how good that Peach Shrub is, I believe I’ll have to make more. Per the Use Real Butter chick, the Shrub will keep in the refrigerator for a full year. Though honestly, there’s no way we’ll be able to keep it around that long. The Peach Rumba is just too danged good! If you try it, let me know how yours turns out.

 

Here’s the printable…

Peach Rumba!
Author: 
Recipe type: Cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 1
 

A delicious Summer Cocktail made from simple ingredients, Peach Rumba is dependent on making a Peach Shrub. That process will take 2 weeks to process, so plan ahead!
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Spiced Rum (I use Captain Morgan’s)
  • 1 ounce Peach Shrub (I use the recipe found at UseRealButter: http://userealbutter.com/2014/08/03/peach-shrub-recipe/ )
  • Seltzer Water or Club Soda
  • Ice

Instructions
  1. Fill a short glass with ice.
  2. Add 1 ounce of Spiced Rum.
  3. Add 1 ounce of prepared Peach Shrub
  4. Top off with Seltzer or Club Soda and serve!

 

Magic Elixir

 

 

This is my new espresso maker. Mister got it for me and it’s one of those gifts that I love as much as air.

 

It reminds me of my Granny Vera’s old stove-top coffee percolator. I remember her adding the water and the coffee to that dented metal device, and then waiting. It would just sit there, taking its sweet time. And then there was coffee. Once in a great while, she and Big Papa would let me have a little coffee at breakfast. The cup placed before me would run over into the saucer beneath, just like Papa’s. Only my magic elixir was mostly milk and sugar.

 

I’ve missed that percolator over the years. And while I could have gotten a brand new version, it was Granny’s beaten-up model that stood out in my mind. So when Mister got this Italian-made, shiny goo-gaw for me, I didn’t compare or complain. In fact, I’m so smitten with the danged thang, I’m wondering how I’ve managed to get along without it thus far. It’s fantastic.

 

Now mornings find me adding water and coffee to the smooth, silvery device, and waiting. It sits there, taking its sweet time. And then there is coffee. I fill my cup, add some half and half, and savor. Once in a great while, I’ll stir in a little sugar – for old times. So far, each batch has put me in mind of Granny and Papa. That alone is a tremendous gift and I’m incredibly grateful to Mister for bestowing that upon me. The coffee’s damned good, too.

For Friends

 

 

Today I’m having a bash for my friends. My Rock Camp friends, to be precise.

 

All week I’ve been cleaning and prepping. I started marinating certain foods on Wednesday, and I’ve been collecting beer for over a week. Is this crazy? Maybe. But when you’re doing something for your friends, you don’t mind. In fact, you’re happy to prepare. I mean, we’re talking friends here, people! Friends! I’m so grateful for the ones I’ve got that I gladly put in effort toward their enjoyment. After all, why not?

 

All that being said, it’s Party Day. And I’m hoping the planning pays off and that I get to enjoy the company of my friends. They are truly a fabulous lot.

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 31

 

 

I’ve been reading about Nashville Hot Chicken for ages now. I’ve imagined it, wondered about it, doubted it, wanted it. I’ve even heard about a Nashville chain scouting potential locations here in L.A. But even if that comes to pass, it won’t be happening any time soon. And I don’t have a single trip to Nashville on the calendar. So at some point I had to ask myself: how am I gonna get me some of that Nashville Hot Chicken?

 

I could make it, of course! I found a recipe and asked Mister if he was in to give it a go. That guy got more excited than I! So the project was set.

 

We found our recipe, gathered our ingredients and got to cooking! The recipe we used was from Bon Appetit magazine and I really liked it. Mister and I both kept saying how complex and wonderful the flavors were. Because we’re talking about fried chicken, it was messy. I tell you this because if you decide to make it (and you should), I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.

 

I want to tell you something else about this recipe. It uses 6 tablespoons of cayenne! We had our doubts about that much heat, and we like spicy food. But here’s the thing – it wasn’t too hot. In fact, if I make it again, I may up the cayenne. Do I think you should do that your first time out? No. If you decide to try this recipe, I recommend following it. Then you can decide if you want to try adding more heat. You know, the next time.

 

This creative food project was fun and delicious. As the primary cook in our house, I always enjoy having Mister in the kitchen with me. It’s rare. It’s also nice. And in the case of making Nashville Hot Chicken, it was divine.

 

Body and Soul

 

 

Yesterday’s post told of my neighbor’s passing. I mentioned how, as a Southerner, my go-to response to a death in the family is to cook for the family. And my go-to food is a baked ham.

 

I want to share a little something I’ve learned to do in cases such as this. When I take food to the bereaved, I make sure to present the edibles on some sort of dish the family can keep. The way I figure it, the last thing they need to worry about is which plate belongs to whom and how to get it back to the owner. So I make a trip to a thrift store and find some sort of inexpensive yet keepable item, purchase it and give it away. I make sure the family knows they can keep the dish and that it’s theirs to use or pass on. One less detail for them to deal with.

 

Mister pointed out to me that my neighbors probably won’t be hungry at all. I know he’s right. But if they do need nourishment, at least they won’t have to cook. And if people stop by (and people surely will), our neighbors won’t have to bother preparing something for their friends. It’s little things like that, things that feed our bodies and souls, that make all the difference in life.

 

Heaven knows, the little things matter. Especially in the face of the big things. And losing a loved one is about the biggest thing I can think of.

In The Garden

 

 

This big little dude has been residing in our tomato patch for quite a while now. Mister and I have watched him grow into the hearty specimen you see in the photo. I’d like to think of him as the Keeper of The Garden, but I know he’s actually the Eater of The Garden. He seems to have an affinity for basil.

 

Even though there’s close to 2 months of summer remaining, the ugly heat is taking its toll on our little plot. We used to have a sun-shade rigged over our tomatoes, when we lived at the old house. That contraption has yet to be built here at the new pad, so the toe-mates are suffering.

 

Some days I feel akin to those tomatoes. It seems as if there’s no escaping the Los Angeles heat, save residing by the ocean. We did manage to ride out the broken A/C this past month, and I will be forever grateful to the conditioned air gods for coming to our rescue. And we are able to jump in the pool to get our core temperatures down, so I can’t complain on that front.

 

Maybe what’s gnawing at my brain is the fact that there is so much heat to go. August in L.A. is typically unattractive, temperature-wise. September will probably be the same, if not worse. And then you know what’s gonna happen? October will show barely any improvement. Heck – we’ve had to run the A/C on many a Thanksgiving, and that’s all the way near the end of November, for cry-eye.

 

I miss Seasons. If the promise of Autumn was made and kept where I live, I would surely embrace the droop of Summer. But that just isn’t the case. Instead, we’re gonna have to ride out the thermometer’s reading of “Satan’s Butthole” for some time.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. I also love L.A. I love home and I love our pool. And for now, I’m loving what may be the last of the season’s tomatoes. I even love the Eater of The Garden. I think I’ll call him Petrarch.