Category: Travel


Yountville.  The West Coast mecca of 2 and 3 starred Michelin restaurants.  Our good friends Snoopy and Peppermint Patty [yes, those are their aliases, not their real names] made a push for us in calling for reservations.  Our best showing?  Wait listed for any meals while we were in the Bay Area.  In fact, we opted to stay another day longer to try and see if we can get a Friday or Saturday lunch time seating.  For 5 days, my cellphone didn’t get any calls from an area code number starting with 707.  The closest we came to dining at the French Laundry was actually visiting the restaurant, just down the road from their Bouchon bakery.  We walked around in the garden and just sat at their bench for about 10 minutes.  Taking it all in.  Looking around to see the staff coming in and out with flowers for that evening’s service.  Seeing the kitchen still buzzing and prepping for what will most likely turn out to be a busy night.

Like a giddy school girl waiting to see her own David Cassidy, I gushed when I saw Thomas Keller walk around the restaurant from the front to the kitchen.  We were across the street in the French Laundry garden, seeing the vegetables they were growing for their daily menus.  I’m sure if it wasn’t for all the hype and press around food over the last 10-15 years, we wouldn’t have even thought about who he is and what he does.  But I think we all need to admit and accept that food is becoming more crucial in how we live our lives now.  Organic versus non-organic. It all plays into where we are at with our overall health these days.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have bog food conglomerates who continue to want to have us buy crappy frozen foods laden with just the things we can’t afford to have in our diets: sodium and sugar.  So to see Thomas Keller is not just seeing another celebrity.  It’s about what he and the restaurant represents.  The highest quality both in food and service.  Yes, it’s expensive and yes, it’s a meal that many people will never get a chance to eat due to its price.  But we were close.  We were thisclose but still so far away.  Next time.  We will have to plan our whole trip around this meal.  A meal that can set the standard of all meals to come.

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Renewal

It’s been 2 months to the day since my last post.  Time seem to fly with every day life, but then, time seemed to stand still because of it.  No inspiration from the drab dining experiences behind the Orange Curtain and feeling flaccid in any attempt to call upon any muse for something magical.  Then, there’s nothing better to feel a sense of renewal in prose than to be inspired by things that are beyond the everyday.  During our vacation up north, we experienced a lot.  And to be sure, it reaffirmed what I have been pontificating and standing on a soapbox about for many, many posts now.  There truly is nothing less spectacular in our eateries in South Orange County than your average chain restaurants.  Even those we do like sometimes feel overused and over visited.  And yet, we seem OK with that.  We seem OK continuing to get our bagels at Panera Bread and Corner Bakery when we should be demanding the simplest things to come down here, like Noah’s Bagels.  We should be wondering why places like Redd and Cyrus would likely get less customers and attention than a BJ’s or Islands.  But we don’t.  I guess in many ways, we’ve come to expect nothing less than mediocre from our senses as we devour another pizookie.

And yet, when we were in the Bay Area, we truly experienced some places that are magical.  More magical than Providence.  More magical than Mastros.  Places like Redd, Cyrus, Bouchon, Incanto are just a few places we let our sense of taste be released from the dreary and the mundane.  Places like Gott’s, Oxbow Market, and the 1 Ferry Building remind us of how a good public market doesn’t need to serve Baja Fresh and Panda Express.  I had to take a break from my own rule of no more taking pictures of our food during our vacation because the food we were eating were so damn good.

We were surround by great friends and family during our week there and it was those times that stick out, even more than the food we consumed.  But the food, as simple as strawberries from local farmers that tasted like candy it was so sweet, added a dimension to our vacation that we will not soon forget.  It will be tough to come back to the reality of BJ’s and Islands, but we can always draw upon our memories to  remembers that we are not prisoners of our own culinary demise.  We don’t have to settle for mediocre.  We just need to search out something better with vigor and perseverance.

Traveling With Reckless Abandon

 

Italy.  Milano.  Firenze.  Roma.  Venezia.  Those were the cities the misses and I visited during our trip during the summer of 2008.  There are many memories that come to mind when I reflect on that trip.  It certainly created a lot of memories for me/us as we had the privilege of going a country that I have always loved.  This time around, I was not on a coach bus on a tour, chasing the many wonderful parts of these cities like a group of cattle being herded by a tour director.  This time, we went on our own.  Booking flights, hotels, finding transportation, and all in all, being on our own to find sustenance.  I’ve written here before about our experiences with pizza and gelato,  but it’s this experience of traveling outside the confines of a set tour that has made a deep impression on what it means to be traveler and not a tourist.

The picture above was taken from the Ponte Vecchio of Florence along the Arno River.  A hot day in June, where the sun beat down on a city and its people with full intensity.  On most tours, you would be lucky to have seen the Ponte Vecchio from afar, let alone walking through it.  The fast pace whirl of visiting the Academia [Statue of David] take much of the day that many tours do not even take people into the Uffizi.  After the Academia, you would be whisked away to go shopping for leather goods and gold.  After which, you’re thrown back on the bus that take you to the outskirts of the city where you have a meal at the hotel and call it quits on Florence.

Through our travel through Italy, our friends F & E lent us their little Peugeot, a 2 door hatchback [above] that took us from Milan to Cecina [80km southwest of Florence where we stayed] to Rome and back.  With this little engine that could, we survived driving through most of Italy like we would have never been able to see on any tour.  That little car took us along the coast of Italy down to the Eternal City where once we were able to find our hotel, rested for a week before we took it all the way back to Milan.  This was the first time I/we had ever done anything like that outside the States and it made me/us more confident that in the future, we can do the same.  Driving through Rome with its thousands of scooters coming right along side of your car was both scary and exhilarating.  The city breathes its warm breath through the twists and turn of the streets that took us into the historic part of Rome along the Tiber River.

To travel is to do what all Nike commercials have been imploring us to do for years.  Just do it.  While I realize that for 99% of us, money stops us from doing everything we may want, doing what is within our means is worth all the pennies in heaven.  Our wild and crazy ride from Cecina to Rome, 278km of Italian roadway and countryside.  I know in many ways, we could have been more “reckless” in our travels.  We didn’t do anything crazy and we didn’t get in trouble.  I guess that’s not what I mean by “reckless”.  What I mean is to go off the beaten path, even if that path turns out to be a dud.  We certainly had our share of that on our trip.  We double backed on many roads and got lost many times.  We were tired, hot, thirsty, and just wanted beverages with ice.  But none of that mattered as we went through each city with open hearts.  We got to see and experience things that a tour could never have offered.  We spent over 1.5 hours in the Sistine Chapel alone.  At one point, we just sat there for about 20 minutes.  Taking in all of Michelangelo’s work, unencumbered by time.   We took our time in the Academia, totaling over 1.5 hour while many tours whisk you in and out in 25 minutes.  We sat at the Spanish Steps for about 30 minutes, resting from an otherwise tiring day of shopping and eating.  Many tours wouldn’t have even dropped you off to walk on the steps.

I know at some point in our lives, we will need to take tours and cruises.  No longer will we have the energy and vigor to double back and explore as when we were young.  But until that time I hope we continue to travel this way.  Getting lost in a city because it’s the best way to get to know a city.  And for that, I’m glad that little Peugeot took us to places along the way we never would have otherwise ventured.  It was sad to say goodbye to her when we returned to Milan.  She was good to us.  She was good for us.

Depending on where you stand on all-you-can-eat [AYCE] places, they are either a gluttony of goodness or the nadir of culinary ideas that should’ve died at the concept stage, but like a bad virus, has thrived in this country.  With the boon of Las Vegas and its endless supplies of AYCE places, we Americans have come to fall for the gimmick that we’ll somehow eat so much we can bring the establishment to its knees.  The contrary, of course, is true.  The establishment wins every time we go into a buffet because well, the establishment is quite smart.  The marketing itself has beaten our appetites even before we walk into a Hometown Buffet or a classier joint like the Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.  What no one will tell us is that after a few deep fried morsels of evilness, our stomachs are calling it quits, turning our precipitous appetites to vapors.

But not all buffets are created equal.  While having dined at my fair share of AYCE evilness here in the States, not all buffets are crap.  But you have to leave these shores to experience a truly magnificent buffet.  In Hong Kong, where people truly live to eat, there are some amazing buffets to be had.  And I am not referring to cheap “Hometown Buffets” style locations.  The picture above is from the Shangri La Hotel‘s Kaffe Kool, where for $50-$60US per person, you can get great roast duck, sushi, handmade udon and noodles, handmade naan bread with a tandoori oven to boot.  It’s not cheap to eat at Kaffe Kool, but because everything there is made on premise, it’s a far cry from even the Bellagio buffet, where one shells out about $45US per person for a “good” buffet [which I disagree with].  I would give a place like Kaffe Kool 4.5 stars on Yelp if I could.  It is THAT good.  The sushi is better than many sushi places here in LA and the fact that they have made to order noodle bar as part of the buffet is worth the price of admission.  On the other side of the floor is their dessert area.  Handmade crepes with ice cream is just one of the many sweets you can get there.  It really is one of the best AYCE places I’ve ever been to.  A few days later, we visited the Intercontinental Hotel and the buffet there looked even better.

So, while I still maintain that buffets are crap, there are a few that are truly outstanding.  I still haven’t been to a buffet here in the States where it has blown my socks off, but in Hong Kong, they seem to everywhere.  Especially in their hotels, where people tend to go and have a great meal.  Here in this country, we would scoff at dining out for a special occasion at a hotel.  Hotel food, to us, is just overpriced bad food.  But not there in Hong Kong.  It’s another great dining experience.  Yes, it is still overpriced, but people tend to be fine with that because of the quality of the food you get.  Here in the States, I would still encourage us to stay away from buffets if we can help it.  I realize some families view these buffets as a cheap alternative to feed a large family and to that, I say “Do what you need to do” in this economy.  But for those who are not struggling too much, just stay away from the monstrosity.  You won’t regret it.

Ubiquitous Chinatown

 

Chinatown.  The last bastion of a seedier part of a western city where people come to experience a glimpse of “China” and when ready, walk or drive back to a place where picket fences and doorman await them.  Every major city in this world outside of Southeast Asia has a Chinatown.  London, Paris, Melbourne, Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York come to mind quickly.  It shows the vast distances that, for the most part, countries go to take part in trading and doing business in China back in the 1800s.  In turn, the Chinese would immigrate to these foreign shores to make money of their own, and as late as the 1970s in Europe, would go and seek higher education in countries like Austria and Switzerland.  Like many immigrants, they took on vocations that is not only practical, but necessary.  Laundromats and restaurants became typical business establishments.  As their business grew, the Chinese immigrants started to bring family members from home to live a life where opportunities, at least to them, are plentiful.  This was especially the case after Mao took over China in 1949.

In London, the Chinatown is not huge, but for what it is, it is quite diverse in its cuisine offerings.  Cantonese, Sichuan, and even Vietnamese to just name a few is quite a common sight.  For those of us who are Chinese, we participate in going to Chinatown to experience ourselves what it’s like for our community to be in a foreign place.  Our expectations of the food are tempered because of ingredients, more than talentless chefs.  You would think that with today’s shipping technology, ingredients would be plentiful.  That it can reach far and wide, and the Mongolian Beef you have in Los Angeles will taste the same as it does in London.  But it doesn’t.  There’s the cost of ingredients, the limited amount of purveyors who stock items like lemongrass and Thai chilis, the demand of those kinds of dishes in a western city.  As one restaurant competes with another on a simple dish like beef with stir fried vegetables, it’s tough to offer something drastically different to entice new customers.  But Chinatown is still a place that offers a different experience for locals.  It is a place they can go and experience food and community where they may not have the opportunity otherwise.  And in that sense, Chinatown is a good thing.  It’s a cultural awareness that needs to happen for us to live in a diverse society.  Like a Little Italy, Little Saigon, Little Ethiopia, and Koreatown in Los Angeles, we get to taste a little of each cultural without having to visit a country that we might not have the means to visit.  And to experience something new is quite exhilarating, even if there’s no replacing the real thing of traveling.  Because experiencing something new brings new perspectives and values to our lives that help us grow.  And that is always a good thing.

I can still hear my friends and family telling us before we went on our trip to Italy a couple of years ago, “You are going to have the most amazing food in Italy!”  Logically speaking, I thought that was obvious.  I mean, how bad can Italian food be in Italy?  For those who have traveled or lived there, you know there is good Italian food and then there is horrific Italian food.  All can be found all over Italy.  In particular, we found the good, bad, and ugly in Rome.  We realized, even though not quickly enough, if the menu of the restaurant came in English, it would be horrific.  Bad pasta, bad seasoning, poor products, and generally, it’s to rip off pour tourists like ourselves.  As I wrote in another post, some of the worse pizza I have ever had was in Rome.  And yet, a place like Dar Poeta, one of the best pizzas I’ve had, can be found just on the other side of the city.

One place that we stumbled upon that turned out to be an amazing restaurant is right around the corner from the Colosseum.  Very close, in fact, to the church St. Peter In Chains [San Pietro in Vincoli] along Via Del Fangutale in the Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli .  Along Via Cavour resides a restaurant that blends in well with the surrounding architecture and a little nondescript.  But we read about this restaurant in our guidebook and decided to take a chance, even though the menu was all in Italian and the people in the restaurant did not speak English.  Adjusting to the “laid” back life of Italy was tough, waiting for someone to finally come around to take our order after about 15-20 minutes seemed like an eternity.  And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the rest of the world lives, and only in America do we expect instant service.  In many ways, we responded to this foreign restaurant like many Americans, ordering something familiar.  We ordered a vegetarian lasagne and a plate of mixed meats [salami, ham, etc] and cheeses.  What we got was truly sublime.  The lasagne was truly homemade and the flavors were both delicate and robust at the same time.  The photos below were taken during the days when I would still snap photos of food [back in 2008], so I get to share them here:

Beyond those dishes, were the desserts.  The homemade pistachio gelato and nougat with chocolate sauce was truly beyond reproach.  Never had I had ice cream, much less gelato, with cracked black pepper right on top.  It sounds weird and maybe even disgusting to put pepper on desserts, but as my friend once told me, “When the chef puts cracked black pepper on ice cream, he’s almost daring you to eat it.”  And dare we did and we were rewarded with the most amazing pistachio gelato I have ever had, still to this day.  Yes, these superlatives are well warranted and although it may appear that I’m merely exaggerating to make a point, I am not.  It was truly that good.

And so we learned another lesson in traveling and eating, especially in Italy.  If you see items in English, just walk away.  Find places where they only have menu items in Italian.  We were rewarded time and time again when we followed that golden rule.  From a trattoria in Florence, to Cavour 313 and Dar Poeta in Rome, and a typical Tuscan restaurant in the small medieval village of Bibbona, we never left angry or feeling duped.  I would never tell anyone to not be a tourist when you travel, because that’s part of the reason why people go to places like Rome and Florence.  To see the Sistine Chapel, to see the Colosseum, and to walk across the Ponte Vecchio.  But with food, I feel that’s where we can be more like the locals.  We ought to really try things that truly IS foreign to us, even if that might mean we just plopped down $60 for 2 for a dud.  But what this experience has taught us is that the duds are far and few between than plopping down $40 for 2 for the crappiest pizza on this planet in Rome because the menu is in English.

Importance of Bakeries

Bakeries are not all created equal.  When we vacationed in Paris, it made me realize that bakeries ought to be an important part of our lives.  I’ve made several pleas in my entries that we ought to create time to cook.  To turn away from the sugar and sodium laden artificially flavored frozen foods this country has grown to subsist on.  The boulangerie in Paris should be a way to tell us here in the States that we rely too much on pre-packaged breads.  White, wheat, sourdough, multi-grain, are just a few that you can find in your local grocery store.  We all buy them and we all eat them without really thinking about what goes into these loaves.  I’m not suggesting Orowheat is lacing their wheat breads with toxic chemicals, but a recent trip to the grocery store has again reminded me that a simple thing like bread can also contain things like sucrose and other artificial flavors that also keeps the bread in your refrigerator a lot longer than freshly baked breads.

If you take the recipe of a classic French baguette, it contains yeast, flour, baking soda, salt, and water.  That’s it.  To transform these ingredients into a beautiful 18″ loaf takes time, patience, proper temperature and proper steam in the oven.  And this is where I tend to give all of us a culinary break.  It’s not feasible, in this day and age, to carve out a whole day a week to make fresh breads.  The baking time maybe 40-50 minutes, but with proper proofing, making bread can take up to 18 hours.  And really, we just don’t have that kind of time anymore.  That’s why it’s so important that we all find really good bakeries where we live.  The breads that you get at a bakery is so much better and fresher than your local grocery stores.  And more importantly, it will be better for you.

I realize that not all of us live near a really good bakery.  And that in itself is tragic.  I know, because we do not live close to a good bakery either.  We cannot walk or even drive a short distance to have a really good croissant and a cup of coffee that is remotely close to a boulangerie in Paris.  Below is a non-typical Parisian breakfast we had while we were there.  The croissants were fantastic and the coffee was also out of this world.  It tastes so much better than the croissants you can buy at Costco.  There’s just nothing like freshly baked breads.

I still buy bread from my local grocery store, but if there were an Eric Kayser [the boulangerie in Paris where these pictures are taken] where we live, I would buy my breads here every week.  The fact that the city we live in doesn’t help create a community where these bakeries can thrive is also a shame.  But there’s nothing we can do about that.  At the Eric Kayser boulangerie, while we were eating our breakfast, we noticed customer after customer coming in to buy 1, 2, even 3 loaves of baguettes at a time.  I wish we had that kind of bakery near our house.  I wish that was part of our culture here.  But I realize it is not.  We’re in it for the quick and satisfying while many of cultures are in it for the quality of the foods they eat.  That’s something we can re-learn to follow their lead in.  I’m not imploring we all bake our own breads, but let’s at least drive around to find a really good bakery where we can rely on to get our daily breads from.  That would a huge start to living better and living healthier.

Old Hong Kong

Aberdeen is an area on the southern side of the Hong Kong Island.  According to Wikipedia, present day Aberdeen Village was originally known as “Hong Kong” since the Ming Dynasty.  Travelers who came to the “Hong Kong” port mistook the name Hong Kong as the name for the whole island.  When the foreigners realized their mistake, the name Hong Kong had “stuck” as the name of the the whole island.  So, in 1845, it was renamed “Aberdeen”, after the British Secretary of State of War and Colonies, George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen.

What was the entry point for foreigners had given a way to hundreds of families that had lived on these “floating” villages for generations where people used to fish for a living.  Now, it is clearly a figment of an era gone by.  Stanley Ho, the Asian casino counter-part of Steve Wynn, has famously created “Jumbo”, a floating restaurant known for its seafood.  The real reason for the restaurant, as some suggest, is so Stanley Ho can legalize gambling in Hong Kong without having a casino on the the actual land.  Whatever the reason, the floating villages of generations past has slowly been dying out.  When we went to visit Aberdeen last year, we met this wonderfully cordial woman who grew up living on these junks and still does, if we were to believe her, today.  As she drove her little junk around the harbor, she told us stories of years gone by.  High rises, land reclamation, and changing commercialism has changed Aberdeen from a once thriving area to a tourist stop.  She said the only way to make a living now is to drive these junks around for tourists who want to see how they used to live or those who only want to eat at the Jumbo restaurant.  Junks are less and less visible now, giving its way to the highly extravagant yachts that are parked at the harbor.  She is one of the last in her generation to still live there, because as she so aptly puts it, “I don’t know how else to live except on these boats and in Aberdeen”.

As she waves goodbye to us, she knows that change is inevitable.  Especially in a place like Hong Kong, where a fad seem to come and go in as quick as a day.  But for some, it’s the only life they have ever known.  I wonder if this women feels as though she has already changed enough for one life time.  Growing up in a fishing village to now driving around people like us in a junk like a tour guide.  And yet, she didn’t sound angry or bitter.  She only reminisced a world she had once known that no longer exists except in her mind.  And yet, you can tell that memory was as sweet as honey for her.  She had a smile telling us stories of “what it used to be” like it was yesterday.  And yet, it’s all too clear that Aberdeen, the original Hong Kong, is just another tourist spot.  Another place in Old Hong Kong that is fading fast into the memory of the generation past.  What else will disappear I wonder.  It will be all too clear next time we visit again, I am sure.

I Am Not Ice Cream. I Am Gelato

Anthony Bourdain, in his latest book “Medium Raw”, writes that given the hard choice of giving up pork or taking a cholesterol drug due to ridiculous cholesterol levels, he chose the drug.  “Give up pork???” he writes.  I think many of us feel the same about ice cream.  “Give up ice cream?  Are you mental?”  Haagan Daz, Ben and Jerry’s, Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone are just a few of the madness we have about ice cream.  But in Italy, ice cream is something so familiar and yet, so entirely different.

During our trip to Italy a couple of years ago, I certainly had my fair share of gelato.  Every day, to be exactly.  All 14 glorious days of gelato.  And some days, more than once.  There is nothing, let me repeat, nothing like it here in the States.  There are these phoney ice cream places that tell you it’s gelato, but…it’s not.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the “gelato” at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, but it’s still not gelato.  What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?  First, it’s the butterfat.  You would think gelato, being so creamy and smooth would contain higher butterfat.  Well, it doesn’t.  Gelato contains 4%-8% butterfat as compared to 14% butterfat in regular ice cream.  You would think because it’s so damn good, it would have higher sugar content.  It doesn’t either.  Gelato contains 16%-22% sugar compared to 21% of most ice creams.  Wikipedia suggests that “The sugar content in gelato is precisely balanced with the water content to act as an anti-freeze to prevent the gelato from freezing solid.” So how can gelato taste better when it has less fat and less sugar.  Does that go against all laws of taste buds?  One lasting memory is how creamy and smooth it is compared to ice cream.  After you lick your way past one scoop, you almost want another one.  Then another one.  Then another.  It’s like crack for adults and kids.

Not all gelateria’s in Italy are like the picture above.  There are thousands of gelaterias all over Italy and many claim to be the best.  I don’t know which is the best, but I know the flavors I like.  Pistachio, amaretto, hazelnut, and the ever elusive biscotti.  Let me tell you about the biscotti gelato.  Think of the best ice cream flavor ever and you will scratch the surface of the biscotti gelato.  We had it at an Ice gelateria [one of many franchises in Rome] near the Vatican and yet, we never saw it again in any other Ice locations.  It’s that ONE near the Vatican that has this damn flavor and it’s like they’re holding it hostage.  We searched high and low near the Campo Di Fiori, Trastevere, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, all to no avail.  I even looked for it when we went back to Milan and Venice, but came away empty handed.

It certainly brings me back to Italy.  If I ever taste an ice cream that comes close to gelato, I get sent right back to Italy.  Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice.  Alton Brown, on “Good Eats”, said that while the Americans were busy inventing and building the atomic bomb in the 1930s and 40s, the Italians perfected gelato.  While that is clearly one man’s opinion, it certainly captures the essence of this dessert.  And if you’ve never gone to Italy, you know that when/if you do, all your friends and families will remind you to eat gelato.  And they would be right.  Have your fill, because when you return, no matter how much you love Haagan Daz and Ben and Jerry’s, it won’t ever be the same.  And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

A Pla[i]ce In History

Take a piece of cod.  Bread it.  Fry it.  Can it BE bad?  I’ve had my fair share of “fish and chips” here in the States and the answer to that question is “Yes”, you can have bad fried foods.  But the English have perfected the fish and chips like nobody’s business.  Sure, there are still bad fish and chips shops in London, but Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden is not one of them.  Opened since 1871, it’s now the oldest fish and chips shop in the UK.  What I didn’t know about these shops is that during World War II, there were neighborhood meetings to see which areas of the city needed food most.  These fish and chips shops then made sure those parts of the city got food first.  Fish and chips were the only foods in the UK at the time that were not subject to being rationed, so it became a way for local restaurant owners to take part in fighting against the Nazi’s.

When we got a chance to eat at Rock and Sole Plaice this summer, that was a history lesson they never taught in school.  You go in and it’s a very tiny little restaurant with maybe 6 tables inside.  The patio had a few long tables and benches, but nothing fancy.  The cod and haddock were perfectly cooked and flaky.  I can still taste the wonderful fish flavors with the malt vinegar and chips.  The tin of tartar sauce and ketchup on the table made it to the plate time and time again.  With the wonderful food in the most adorable area of London, their food took me to a time I never knew [WWII] and helped me visualize what it must have been like to gather in the basement to see where to send the food first.  It seem straight out of the movies, but it helped a city through one of the worst bombings in history.

Fish and chips isn’t just fish and chips – at least not in the UK.  Not in London.  It is a staple in the UK for many decades for a reason.  The abundance of the fish in the English Channel helped London/UK be one of the largest fish sellers for a long time.  And in 1860, a Jewish man name Joseph Malin opened the first fish and chips shop, combining the Jewish fish fry with chips.  Ever since, it has become uniquely English, right up there with the teas.  There’s something wonderful about deep fried fish, but when it’s put into context of a city burning and besieged by aerial bombs day-in-and-day-out, it isn’t just a dish on the menu.  It’s a food that kept the city alive in its hope that it will endure and prevail against the tyranny of evil.  And these shops played a part, however small or big, in its fight.  And they still had time to perfect the deep frying of fish so that it is perfectly flaky and tender.  And that’s an achievement worth noting.