Duck & Waffle

I follow a few London food accounts on Instagram and one place that is featured frequently is Duck & Waffle. Then I did a little bit of research and found out that it’s 1) London’s highest restaurant, at 40 floors, and is 2) open 24 hours. Of course, I am all about superlatives and decided I had to go.

Booking online is easy through their website, but not as easy when booking the night before! When I first looked, the only table for the next day was at 5:00 am (I seriously considered it). Luckily, when I woke up the next morning there was a table open at the perfectly reasonable time of 8:30 pm.

That night, I hopped on the Central Line, got off at the Liverpool Street station, and walked 5 minutes to the Heron Tower, where I was greeted by a very nice “bouncer” who checked if I had a reservation. Good thing Google came in handy to prepare me for this when I was searching the day before for “duck and waffle no reservation.” Then I took a quick glass elevator ride to the 39th floor, walked through Sushi Samba, and climbed one last floor to my destination.

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I was promptly seated at window table facing the north with a nice view of The City (the neighborhood) and Tottenham Hotspur’s football stadium in the distance. The atmosphere was hip, trendy, and a little too dimly lit for my taste.

I ordered the BBQ spiced crispy pig ears and of course, the namesake duck & waffle. The pig ears (didn’t think about them being pig ears when I ate them) came in a brown paper bag and were a great appetizer! They were sugary, salty, crunchy, and not too filling for the rest of the meal.

Then came the main course: a crispy duck confit leg with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. This dish lived up to my high expectations! The slightly salty duck was the perfect complement to the sweetness of the syrup. I don’t usually like eating things together (e.g. I’m not a fan of fruit salad) but it was the best when I was able to gather a piece of duck, a bit of egg, and a square of waffle and cover the bite with syrup.

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The only thing I would change about my experience is the time I went! Next time I’ll go during the day, when I’ll be able to see more of the impressive London skyline.

EuroTrip

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One of my best friends, Jill, and her brother, Jim, planned a trip to Europe so I invited myself along! I met up with them in Paris and then we spent a week traveling through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

France

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Of course – macarons. I am obsessed with the colors of macarons. I’ve read about the great Laduree vs. Pierre Herme debate, so I thought I’d try my own taste test.

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I tried Pierre Herme first, where I just got a pre-made box of 12. The flavors were pretty interesting – milk chocolate & passion fruit, salted butter caramel, olive oil with mandarin orange, mint, etc. The ones with fruit weren’t my favorite, but the quality was great and they really did melt in my mouth.

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Laduree had a much longer line. While the colors of the macarons were a lot more Instagramable, but I didn’t think they were as good as Pierre Herme. They just didn’t taste as fresh and the flavors felt a little more artificial. I got a box of six – I tried rose, coffee, pistachio, citron, Marie Antoinette, and salted caramel. Don’t get me wrong though – if someone offered me a Laduree macaron, it’s not like I’d pass it up.

Luxembourg

Here we made one of the worst decisions of the trip – eating at Quick, a fast food restaurant similar to McDonald’s that’s big in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. A couple of us had some stomach issues after eating Quick, if you get what I mean…

Belgium

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We got these Belgian waffles pretty close to Brussels’ main square, which probably wasn’t smart. There wasn’t anything special about these waffles, which were absolutely covered in milk chocolate, strawberries, and powdered sugar. It was a little disgusting to eat by the end.

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This was actually the first time I had ever eaten mussels. I liked them! However, that might be because they were slathered in butter and garlic. Jim also had them and thought they were good; Jill had one and thought they tasted like boogers.

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In Bruges, we got Belgian frites! These are pretty much just normal french fries, but there are a ton of different sauces to get – curry, tartar, cocktail, mustard, and andalouse (similar to thousand island dressing) just to name a few. I got a garlic sauce, which was tasty.

The Netherlands

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We ate poffertjes, or Dutch pancakes, several times in Amsterdam. They’re basically just regular pancakes, but mini sized, with a slightly spongy texture. You could get them with chocolate and tons of fruit, or the traditional (and my favorite) way – covered in butter and powdered sugar.

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While in the 1 1/2 hour long line for the Van Gogh Museum, Jill and I each got a stroopwafel. Stroopwafels are really thin waffles with a caramel syrup inside. It wasn’t as sweet as you’d think it would be, which was good.

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My last day in Amsterdam, I did a wine and cheese tasting at the Reypenaer cheese tasting room! An instructor guided a group of about 15 of us through six cheeses and three wines. I learned that as the cheese gets older, it gets a lot drier and more crumbly. We were provided with a sheet of paper to write down descriptions of the color, taste and our ratings. I wasn’t really too good at picking out the flavors in each cheese – apparently there were flavors like smoke and chocolate in them?! All I could taste was cheese.

I loved my time traveling through Europe, and especially Amsterdam, which is definitely my favorite city in Europe so far! Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to try some raw herring?

Budapest

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For one of my weekends in Europe, I decided to visit Budapest! I have heard great things about the city. I loved my time in Prague and wanted to see more of Eastern Europe. I love how cheap the food is!

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Of course, I had to try goulash and I had it several different times while I was in Budapest. My recommendation would be to actually go to a restaurant and order it. I had it a couple times, once in front of Buda Castle, and another time in the Central Market, where you buy by weight. I found that these aren’t really that great – in the Central Market the guy literally scooped it out of the pan, put it into the microwave and heated it up before serving it to me. However, at Menza, it was served with egg noodles and actually tasted like they might have made it right after I ordered it, and I got what the big deal was about. It’s made with Hungarian paprika, which has a nice smoky taste to it.

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I also tried langos, which is basically a deep fried bread sort of similar to naan. The most popular toppings are sour cream and cheese; I just got cheese and garlic which was pretty good too. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a nice, simple meal to fill up on.

It was SO HOT the entire time I was in Budapest – it was 95 degrees and sunny each of the three days I was in the city. However, I used this as an excuse to eat some of the best and definitely prettiest gelato I’ve ever had.

Located right by St. Stephen’s Basilica, Gelarto Rosa is the #1 place to get dessert in Budapest according to TripAdvisor, and has way more reviews than any other place. I seriously planned my sightseeing around stopping by this place for a quick treat.

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They shape the gelato into roses – so pretty! This was my fruity one with four flavors: basil lemon, mango, raspberry and peach. Like all food in Hungary, this was so cheap – 750 HUF or $2.66 USD.

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The next time I went, I got 3 flavors: vanilla, Oreo, and hazelnut. So good!!

I wish I had more time to try more food in Budapest – I wouldn’t have felt too bad about it because it is all so inexpensive! I think I spent about $50 on food the whole three days I was in Budapest, and I definitely didn’t starve. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Eastern Europe!

Copenhagen

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Last weekend, I went on a trip to Copenhagen! Why Copenhagen, you ask? Well, have you ever used Google Flights? Similar to Kayak, it’s a great tool to compare flight prices. But the one feature that is especially useful for me is that you can leave your destination blank, and it will show you a map with all the places you can go with each city labeled with the cheapest price. I entered in the dates I was planning to travel, did a quick look at the map, saw that a roundtrip ticket to Copenhagen cost $41 (yes, FORTY-ONE U.S. dollars), and quickly booked my flight!

Copenhagen is kind of known for being a foodie city – it has 15 Michelin restaurants, which is a lot for a city of only a million people. It’s also home to Noma, a former #1 best restaurant in the world (#3 this year). For comparison’s sake, Copenhagen has 4 restaurants in the Top 100 World’s Best Restaurants, while Chicago has 1 and London has 5.

Of course, with booking my flight so last minute, I wasn’t able to get a table at any of the four Top 100 restaurants. However, I was able to get a table at Manfred’s & Vin, a sister restaurant to Relae, which is one of the Michelin star restaurants in Copenhagen. Manfred’s & Vin is just one of many restaurants that serve New Nordic cuisine.

There is a separate menu, but I decided to go with the 7 course tasting menu. One by one, little dishes came out as they were ready. I’m still not entirely sure what everything was but here are my very basic descriptions:

– cucumbers in a yogurt sauce with sage
– poached eggs with salmon truffles
– pork shoulder
– asparagus with hazelnut sauce
– radishes and cabbage
– potatoes with a pesto-like sauce
– smoked trout

I’m pretty sure that I got the same portions served to tables of 2, so I definitely got my money’s worth. I’m glad I experienced the cuisine, but I can’t say that I totally loved it. However, it was pretty good for being mostly vegetarian. The 7 course menu was 250 DKK, or about $37.

Copenhagen is also known for smørrebrød, or open faced sandwiches. The next day for lunch, I rode a bike that I rented from the hostel to Aamanns Deli. I asked the waitress if I should get 2 or 3 sandwiches, and she said if I was hungry I should get 3. So I selected the chicken salad, beef sirloin, and beef tartare sandwiches.

I think in my head it didn’t really connect that beef tartare is raw beef. However when I showed my family this picture, my brother-in-law was disgusted that I ate it! I didn’t think it was too bad. My favorite was probably the chicken salad one. These little sandwiches are expensive though! 65 DKK each, which is almost $10.

Lastly, Copenhagen is known for their hot dog stands everywhere. I probably ate three meals of hot dogs during my 2.5 days in Copenhagen. My favorite, of course, was the hot dog wrapped in bacon. It was a toss-up on if I’d get a bun or not with it – I didn’t quite figure that out with the language barrier.

Overall, a great foodie weekend in Copenhagen! Next time I’ll have to plan in advance to visit a Michelin rated restaurant.

Covent Garden Eats

IMG_0850During the week, I’m in the suburbs of London, but if I stay for the weekend, I will move hotels and actually stay in the city. Lately I’ve been staying in the Holburn area (pronounced HO-burn for some reason), which is near the British Museum. It’s also a quick walk to Primark, my guilty pleasure crappy quality clothes store, and Covent Garden.

Covent Garden is a pretty happenin’ place! There’s always a ton of people having drinks at the Market Building (pictured above) and just people watching. There’s lots of shopping around too.

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I learned about Pizza Pilgrims from this list on Thrillist of The 16 Worst Restaurant Decisions You Can Make in London. #1 is “Eating at Pizza Express on Dean St when Pizza Pilgrims is across the street.” I’ve actually eaten at Pizza Express before and it wasn’t bad. Anyway, Pizza Pilgrims has a great website where you can order takeaway and pick it up at a specific time, so I did just that and walked 15 minutes back to my hotel to dig in. I got the nduja pizza, which is a margherita pizza with spicy pork sausage. It was really tasty but the whole pizza, as you can see, was pretty watery. Also, this is basically the only meat pizza on the menu. Sorry, but I like my pepperoni, sausage, and canadian bacon. However, I’ve been back to Pizza Pilgrims many times so that says something about how delicious it is!

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At Burger & Lobster, there are only 3 options: burger, lobster, or lobster roll. Each is £20, so obviously, the lobster seems like the best deal. I’ve been here twice – both times I was seated relatively quickly at the bar, and ordered grilled lobster. The lobster is really easy to eat and comes with a delicious butter dipping sauce!

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I learned about Bone Daddies once again from Thrillist, this time on their article about The 10 Best Dishes in London. I got the tonkotsu ramen, which is the dish on the list. It was perfectly good ramen…

….but I’ve also been to Tonkotsu, which I like a little better than Bone Daddies. They also have their own Tonkotsu ramen, which is pictured below. I find it a little hard to break up the big pieces of pork, so I prefer their Tokyo ramen – somehow the pork belly seems to be more of a pork bellyish consistency and it’s easy to break apart. The broth is also made of pork AND chicken stock, which I like better too.

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And then of course, there’s Shake Shack! Located right in the historic Market Building, this is my go-to meal if I just want something quick to eat. Surprisingly, this Shake Shack has the shortest line of any Shake Shack I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of understandable, since there are already a lot of similar burger places in London (like Honest Burgers and Byron). It has the exact same menu as it does in the States, except like all of the Shake Shacks, the concretes (custard ice cream) kind of give you a hint of the location. The concrete pictured is named Sticky Toffee – vanilla custard, chocolate toffee, paul.a.young chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce, and malt powder. Yum!

One last place I’ve liked in the area is Gelupo! Great gelato with creative flavors, like ricotta coffee & honey and amaretti & apricot, and standard flavors, like mint chocolate chip and hazelnut. Just make sure to go well before closing time – instead of restocking the flavors, once the run out, they just don’t sell any more of that flavor that day.

London

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After my project in Ohio ended, I was surprised to find out that my next assignment was in London! Since then, I’ve learned to say “hiya” and “are you ok?” instead of “hey” and “how are you?”

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I’ve come a long way since my first meal in London, pictured above. It was just as good as it looks (not very). If you’re not careful, there is definitely a lot of boring, bland, and just plain bad food you can eat in London. It’s also perfectly normal to go to the grocery store and pick up a boxed sandwich to eat for lunch – not my favorite.

I’ve spent a few weekends in London already and have gone to some of the different markets. The first one I hit up was Portobello Road Market, located in Chelsea. I went on a Saturday, which is the main day for antiques, but they also had some food stalls including this paella, which was only £6 for a big box!

One of my coworkers who studied abroad in London had just one recommendation for me – Brick Lane Market, in east London. I found there to be way more food options than Portobello Road Market. I got some yummy fruit for just £2:

There was also an indoor food hall which sound a lot of international food – Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Hawaiian, just to name a few. They even had a stall selling poutine. I opted for a popcorn chicken with fried onions and some sort of mayo-ketchup sweet sauce.

A different Sunday, I visited Camden Market, which according to Wikipedia is the fourth-most popular attraction in London. I had a hard time figuring out what to get here – so many different options!

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They have a ton of different things like jerk chicken, Dutch pancakes, and barbeque. I just ended up getting some grilled chicken from one stall which was fine but not too memorable.

For lunch one day, I decided I wanted to do an ales and pies tasting board – best decision ever! There seem to be a lot of establishments under the same restaurant group that do this, but I chose The Admiralty, right by Trafalgar Square.

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They give you 3 tiny beers and 3 small pies with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. The 3 beers are London Pride, ESB, and Honey Dew – I think I liked the Honey Dew the best, and I’m sure I liked the London Pride the least. London Pride is a popular cask ale, which is basically regular beer but flat and warm. Out of the 3 pies, surprisingly, I liked the steak pie the least. The chicken and ham was the best and the sweet potato, spinach, and goat cheese pie was also very good. It doesn’t look like much, but I was SO full after I ate this!

Finally, I have to include a picture of the coffee van that comes around at the client! This coffee van comes every day at 9 am and 2 pm and sets up shop in the parking lot. It offers sandwiches, chips (i.e., “crisps”), pasties, and even some homemade food like a chicken salad, or lamb with quinoa, or a chicken curry. It’s a lifesaver!

We also buy sandwiches for lunch from it.

It also has a fancy coffee maker in the back which can make real coffees like espressos and lattes. It is seriously a highlight of my day whenever I hear the horn signaling that the van has arrived.

Can’t wait to try some more London food!

Velvet Taco

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My friend Tom and I like going to new places to eat, so we decided to try out Velvet Taco! It just opened earlier this month on State Street, and is the first location outside of Texas. We went at 6 pm, so it wasn’t too busy, but while we were eating the place definitely started to fill up.

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The menu is separated into chicken, beef, fish, pork, vegetarian, and brunch tacos and there are a couple varieties for each. There’s lots of kinds that I’d try – buffalo chicken, fish n’ chips, ahi poke, shredded pork, and even fried paneer.

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I got the #11 Grilled Flank Steak (portobello, white queso, grilled red onion, mex-oregano, corn tortilla) and the #9 Crisp Pork Belly (house pickles, pickled fresnos, grain mustard, tomato, red onion, micro celery, poppy seed, celery salt, flour tortilla). I liked the pork belly one but wasn’t in love with the grilled flank steak – the queso tasted weird on it and it was hard to eat the steak.

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Tom got the #7 Cuban Pig (gruyere cheese, slow roasted pulled pork, shaved ham, peppered bacon, grain mustard, house brined pickle, crisp flour tortilla) and the #3 Spicy Chicken Tikka (crisp tenders, spicy pepper sauce, buttered
cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, thai basil, flour tortilla). He liked them both, and when he told me the chicken tikka one was really good, a random guy sitting next to us chimed in that the chicken tikka is his favorite of them all. I guess I know what I’m getting next time!

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Finally, the best thing here was the tater tots, served with a local egg, herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado crema, and bacon. All things that I love that you wouldn’t think to put together!

Can’t wait to go back and try some more things on the menu including the elote-style corn and the red velvet cake!