“Zesty has landed and in need of a very STIFF drink!” was what I texted as soon as I got out of the plane. London: sun shining, blue skies and gorgeous warm weather. My nerves were still shaken after my wild autobahn fiasco on the way to Frankfurt airport, but it was paired with an excitement that had been building up for months.
It was a very mixed up and contradicting emotion I was feeling. Part of me was worrying about all that could have happened on the autobahn and what ever would happen to my dearest VW Golf that I left standing on top of a truck back in Germany. The other part was feeling elated to be actually in London.
For months there had been a torrent of emails and Skype talks between Sweary (Jeanne), Saucy (Jamie), Sporty (Kerrin), Snarky (Hilda) and me (Zesty) back and forth about everything from studmuffins, our presentation for Food Blogger Connect (FBC), where we all were going to be speaking to chocolates, cheese, rugby and everything in between. Oh how we laughed, literally falling off our chairs other times we needed tissues to wipe off the tears as we discussed matters closer to the heart. One thing we always said, if this was what it was like in a virtual world – what would it be like when we all meet up again?
Well here I was in London City airport waiting for Saucy to arrive from Nantes with a coffee in my hand and staring at a picture in the newspaper of the English soccer team arriving in South Africa, looking very sharp in their grey suits. I giggled and thought “How many emails would this be worth?”
My eyes kept scanning the monitor above me to look at the status of the flight from Nantes. Finally it said “landed” and I moved closer to the doors. And there she was. Saucy in all her sauciness. You know you have a solid friendship when you can simply pick up from where you left off. That’s exactly what we did. Chattering as if we’d only been apart for a few hours, we waited till Jeanne picked us up. “Look for a metallic green Volvo with a person possibly swearing inside!” was what she told us. Soon we saw that green Volvo pull up and there she was muttering under her breath living up to her nickname.
We got to Jeanne’s, constantly chattering and always laughing. No grumpiness with these girls that’s for sure!
Soon we were sitting outside in the garden, Jeanne’s husband Nick, who looked extremely skeptical at us as he walked into the house earlier, was firing up the barbecue for a typical South African braai.
As we waited for Kerrin and Hilda to arrive we unpacked our cheese. Each one had brought delicacies from where we lived, cheese, pâté and other luxury treats. Jeanne brought out some South African delicacies and crackers and we arranged a platter of a variety of cheese.
We began nibbling and sipping on refreshing prosecco and soon we heard Hilda shout from behind the fence.
I think the three of us dropped everything, left poor Nick alone and ran to the front door. Yes – we all squealed with delight at being reunited again. It felt good and we did not care about what the neighbors thought.
That evening we spent talking, laughing, discussing and eating till quite late. Nick and Jeanne served a delectable feast of incredible tasting South African specialties, Spicy, flavorful and so good. Then it was back to cheese this time from Zürich courtesy of Kerrin. Dessert was flown in from Germany – a tasting of these raspberry tea macarons with tahini dark chocolate cream and a post-dinner/dessert treat were a selection of chocolates – again from Zürich. I won’t even go into the bottles of wine we drank.
Jamie relaxing with drink and cheese at Cooksister HQ
Photo left: Jeanne and Jamie – Cooksister HQ Photo right: Kerrin and Me – The Hempel Hotel
We had plenty of time the next day before we headed out to the Hempel Hotel for the Food Blogger Conference so we decided to relax and later headed into town for lunch and followed by a quick trip to Greenwich Market.
It’s hard to put into words what we were feeling. It’s not that we are a closed clique-y kind of group. You’d be very wrong if you thought that. On the contrary we are very open, honest and loyal towards each other and towards the people around us. I think what makes us connect so well is the fact that we all share these characteristics and basically found each other through our unusual hobby, realizing, as we got to know each other, a lot more ties and holds us together.
It would surprise many if I told them for example I had met Kerrin at the last FBC and chatted to her for only 45 minutes. But we clicked. We came back home and began emailing each other and opening up with life stories and funny tales. Hilda and my friendship is based on a few bags of pecan nuts, Jeanne and I go back a few years but only actually ever met at the last FBC and I fell in love with Jamie’s writing and got to know her first via email and then met her last time I was in London. There are one or two other ladies that I know in this fashion and cherish their friendship. They all belong to the group we affectionately call the Spice Girls.
Photo left: Hilda, Jamie and Kerrin – Cooksister HQ Photo right: Jamie, Kerrin and Jeanne – waiting for the Tube
Canary Wharf Station
Trinity College of Music in Greenwich
Enjoying a typical fish & chips with mushy peas at the Trafalgar Taverne on the Thames
Lovely interior at the Trafalgar Taverne
Greenwich Market was a wonderful buzz of people and aromas of a multitude scents filling the air. Just my kind of place. Food, people, props and 1001 ideas for my next recipe experiments.
We only spent a short while here much to my dismay but we charmed our way into getting free churros and chatted to the lovely Brazilian lady making them.
People & Food at Greenwich Market
Delicious variety of churros at Greenwich Market
Tantalizing aromas fill the air at Greenwich Market
On Saturday evening the five of us, accompanied by Mowie (Pink Spice), left the FBC venue after our presentations feeling relieved and satisfied that they were all received so well and headed for dinner to the Tate Modern Restaurant.
The view was spectacular and the food was fairly good.
I tucked into a Swiss chard and comte cheese tart with apple coleslaw for starters. Lovely flavors, albeit slightly on the cold side, but apparently it was supposed to be. My next course was roast breast and confit leg of Wickham Manor Farm chicken, braised Umbrian lentils
and salsa verde. The lentils were a great flavor combination of tangy rounded off by a sweeter note. The chicken, although slightly on the dry side still provided a lovely robust flavor. My favorite course was definitely dessert and how could it not be with a bitter chocolate financier, poached meringue and a milk chocolate sauce. Each one of us ordered a different dessert right through the menu and taste tested each one. Decadent!
The downside was the fact the staff tried to sell off plaice as lemon sole and seemed to be miffed that we caught on to the debacle. Kerrin very diplomatically cited the manager and explained the matter on hand. However, when the bill came we were rather surprised that they had the cheek to charge the bill for the full price of lemon sole (market price GBP 12), which was really plaice (market price GBP 1.20) and NOT the same thing.
Coming from the hospitality industry, I was quite intrigued to see how the staff reacted. Unfortunately not very professionally at all.
Photo: Kerrin – Tate Modern Restaurant Menu
It did not spoil the evening at all though and we left still laughing and chatting about crazy foodie habits.
On Sunday we had the whole afternoon after the final presentations at the FBC. I had found out that Jeanne’s husband loved curry and offered to cook an Indian meal that evening. We headed into the city to do a bit of foodie souvenir and grocery shopping.
While I really love London and always feel the urge to visit each year, I doubt I could ever live there. One spends so much time getting from one destination to another. I was permanently thinking of all the things I could be ticking off on my To Do list while we were commuting in the Tubes.
However the buzz of this city energizes, it tires me too but the sights and sounds impress me.
The bustling city - Jamie and Jeanne
A typical London sight – the Black Cab
London would never be the same without the Double Decker Bus
Our foodie shopping tour took us to Ladurée located in the lovely Burlington Arcade. Macarons and pastries, this girl was in dessert heaven. People came out of the little boutique, daintily clutching little boxes filled with whatever sweet treasures they wanted to indulge in. Some sat at the round tables scattered outside the shop and very carefully opened their boxes to reveal the jewels, macarons mostly.
I did not miss a beat, flipped my camera and began taking pictures, much to the surprise of the people. Jamie and Jeanne peered closer into the boxes, who took our inquisitiveness with a pinch of salt.
Finally we set foot into the Mecca of Macarons.
Elegant pastries decorating gold lined shelves of Ladurée
The legendary Ladurée macaons
I bought a small box with a selection of macarons to test later that evening. Chocolate, salted caramel, orange blossom, pistachio, mint, vanilla were a few of the flavors I picked.
Our next stop was Fortnum & Mason a paradise for food lovers of all species. My one thought as I tasted my way from shelf to shelf was “How do I get myself locked in here for the night?”
Chocolate covered honeycomb, Morello cherry and cognac preserve, Ambrosial Alchemy Prune, FIg and Date cake, Fortnum's Handmade Butter and Treacle Toffee and of course macarons. Just a few things that I left with. Jeanne bought the macarons to compare notes later.
Back at home we kicked off our shoes, packed our suitcases and relaxed – the foodie way!
Life of a food blogger
We had a little hands on photo sessions in Jeanne’s conservatory with the food items we bought especially the macarons. Kerrin wanted to know more about how to work with aperture settings on her camera, a part of my presentation the day before. There was no elaborate styling just a makeshift set-up and a lot of fun.
Photo: Kerrin Jeanne and me working our cameras
Photo: Kerrin - Makeshift set-up – taking pictures of macarons
Photo: Kerrin - Did I bag the shot?
Photo left: Ladurée macarons Photo right: Fortnum & Mason macarons
The four of us got together in the kitchen and began cooking a spicy Indian meal. To music from Duran Duran we sang out loudly, Nick made sure our wine glasses were always full and in between chopping garlic and onions we tweeted about our curry cooking evening.
It was a great evening. Dessert came in many forms that evening. In our pyjamas we huddled on the sofas in Jeanne’s living room and began our macarons testing session and watched a rather infamous making of DVD.
I’ll leave it at that!
Spicing in up in the kitchen: Jeanne, Jamie, Kerrin and Meeta
Saying goodbye is always the hardest but we did it with promises to reunite again. In the meantime we are back to giggles and discussions via emails and skype. Never missing a beat.
Thanks girls (those on this picture and also those who are not) for being such awesome friends!
Enjoy your weekend – maybe with your best girlfriends and a lot of good giggles. See you next week!
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