Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Favorite Things

It's probably no surprise from previous posts that I love good food and drink.  While at Borough Market this morning, I popped into one of my favorite stalls that I hadn't been to in a while-Uto Beer-and bought one of the best English beers I've ever had-Jaipur, from Thornbridge brewery.  After I was done, it got me thinking about other beverages I've discovered while living here here-that I likely wouldn't have come to know had it not been for living in London & travelling.  So, if you're fortunate enough to come across any of the below in a grocery store/liquor store near you, I'd highly encourage getting a bottle or two!

Sipsmith Gin and Vodka...London's only distillery...I first came across Sipsmith a few years ago when friends gave me a bottle of Vodka for my birthday (thanks Todd & Dorothy!), and it has now become my vodka brand of choice-and often is the tip-off to the quality of the cocktail bar long before I've had my first sip.  Sipsmith isn't a mass producer, but their quality is high.  So, if a cocktail bar carries their product, it's a good indication of the quality of their cocktails. On a side note...I don't like gin.  It's too 'juniper-y', but Sipsmith's gin is so mild, that even their gin is delish.

Faustino and Torres...In general, I've come to be a big fan of Spanish wines over the past few years.  Between the close proximity to Spain (and availability of the product), to the frequent trips we've made to Spain, I've come to discover and drink a lot of Spanish wine!  And though it may sound cliche, Rioja has become a go-to for me.  On that, I've discovered Faustino to be an outstanding brand-their red are amazing, their white and rose (yes, red & rose Rioja...) are light and summery. And, at anywhere from 6 GBP to 20 GBP for their Reserva, their prices can be very, very reasonable.
And, a more recent discovery- the Torres Celeste Crianza from the Torres family of Spanish wine.  All I can say is yum.  It's light, but complex, and I've become so obsessed with it, I'm already looking for places in the US that may stock it for when I return to the US in a few months!

Last, but certainly not least!
Thornbridge, BrewDog, and Meantime breweries.  All three are micro-brews that produce beer with attitude (and high quality standards...)-and outside of the Pac NW, are three of my favorite labels...(Do NOT for even a moment think that Fuller's London Pride is a decent taste of UK beer.)  Thornbridge and Meantime are London-area breweries (Meantime is worth the trip to SE London to Greenwich to check out...their brewery/restaurant serves incredible food in an incredible location) , and BrewDog is Scottish.   Such great varieties to choose from -from simple ales & pilsners to stouts and IPAs.  And all, just worth trying!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

100 Great Things About London

Thanks to James at 100 Great Things About London for the post (and the cool T-Shirt!).

100 Great Things About London is a great (pardon the pun...) site to have a potter on if you're looking for a little inspiration of what to do in London...yes, I'm totally self promoting (please forgive me), but I do get a little excited to see my words on the interwebs from time to time. :)

Taking my own advice, I personally think I'll be hitting this spot tomorrow on a stroll at lunch.

Happy reading.

Monday, March 19, 2012

London Retailers: Welcome to the 21st Century!

I've often been confounded at the seemingly random (and archaic) hours that retailers stay open for business on Sunday here in the UK.  Only in the Southern part of the US (where clearly, one must go to church before doing anything productive during the day, and return to church in the evening...) where I grew up have I ever experienced such a brevity of 'open for business' which typically meant noon to 6pm.

At the very least, given the size of the population (and spending power...) you would think that London businesses would be open at a more extended rate of time than they are.  Well, as of yesterday, I now know why these bizarre Sunday hours are what they are:  it's the law!

Only since 1994 have UK retailers been allowed to open on Sunday at all, and if you are a business with a shop of more than ~3000 square feet, you are restricted to be open no more than 6 hours on the day-and it has to be between the hours of 10am-6pm.   Also, apparently, only 53% of UK businesses are open on Sunday.  Crazy.

But wait:  that may all be about to change!  In an effort to 'stimulate the economy' during the Olympics and Paralympics, the Chancellor (think, 'UK Treasurer') is apparently soon to announce that they will suspend  Business Trading Hours rules on Sundays and allow shops to stay open for more than 6 hours.  Oh, and this is supposed to be a 'test' to see if the Trading Hours rules shouldn't be permanently suspended., the crap-tastic UK Economy (read:  recession-and possible soon to come double dip) of the past four years hasn't warranted a revision of these rules already? Are we really *just now* thinking, 'hey! there's this thing called the internet that is open for business 24/7/365...if we want UK brick & mortar retailers to continue to be competitive, perhaps we should allow them to um...compete?'

As progressive as I think the UK is on many social and economic matters, something like this creeps up that just makes me smack my forehead and shake my head in complete and utter confusion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My New Fave BBC Program

The Tube on BBC2 has become my new favourite guilty pleasure of the season.

This 6-part documentary gives a true behind the scenes look at the London Underground -in all of it's glory and failure.  After watching the past 4 episodes, I'm almost sympathetic to TFL.  Not to the point of being happy with RMT strikes, mind you (and I still think Bob Crowe, the RMT  leader should eat poo and die), but enough to at least have a good bit of sympathy for all of the TFL front-line employees.

At the very least, it's a voyeuristic look into how the general London population behaves, and is worth watching just for that.

Guess this will have to hold me until the new season of Lambing Live! :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

Spring in London

Seen at Borough Market pun intended, but it put a bit of a spring in my step when I saw the flowering  tree today...Not to bad for March 10!