Monday, July 30, 2012

Xan: Iceland and England (Part 5): Iceland or England?

Where are we, Iceland or England?  Put on your Sherlock Holmes hats to find out!

The game is afoot!





Obvious, isn't it?  As we can see, Catherine is soaked, most likely due to rain.  England is quite rainy, but it rains almost daily in Iceland as well.  However, judging by the dark patches on her bag, I'd say she's been in the rain for over 5 minutes, which rules out Iceland.  So England it is.  Elementary!

You might think that Paddington bear made it obvious, but much like Waldo, he is an international traveler and has been popping up around the world, albeit sometimes hidden quite well. A handful of recent spottings, courtesy of Linden and Chris:

I suppose the fat one and the metal one may have some trouble making it out of Paddington station, but that is merely improbable, not impossible.  Of course there is also the very fact that I am standing at 221B Baker Street wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat.

(not me)

Anyway, we're not done with Iceland, but we're taking a break to talk about England because I feel like it.  I'm pretty sure I've already ruined any hope of these posts having a logical structure anyway, so why not?

In particular, it seems that we're in London right now.  So let's meet the hosts!

Linden and Chris and, for all I know, Paddington bear

We were also hosted by this guy:

"Gromit! I'm wearing the wrong trousers!" <-- Exclaymation

So obviously we had a wonderful, albeit brief, visit to London.  But I'm not going to waste time telling you about all the touristy things everyone has already done.  Instead I will just tell you about the people we saw and foods we ate and rabid squirrels that befriended our pant legs.

Unlike my siblings or the European swallow, I am non-migratory.  Despite possessing British citizenship, it's been over 10 (!) years since I visited England, so I was glad for the opportunity to see some of the funny-talking side of the family.  (Kathleen does occasionally slip into her affectations, and even Linden has started using some funny words, but of course I mean the real funny-talkers).

To that end, we had a lovely dinner with Cynthia and Jane at the Cote restaurant.  Here we are:

This is actually the husband-friendly version of the photo.  In truth, they arrived at the restaurant fully laden with the fruits of a good old-fashioned London shopping spree:

(If you must know, there are more bags in Jane's other hand)
We meant to bring them chocolates but accidentally left them in the care of the giant Paddington bear pictured above.   That said, it was Ghirardelli, not See's, so Cynthia was not too sad.  Maybe even a little glad?  As everyone knows, Cynthia's motto is: Seize the See's overseas!  (Compare this to Catherine's motto, Ghirardelli in my belly!)

Despite the lack of chocolate, though, dinner was very good.  For my part I ordered the rillettes (duck and pork pate) and a brace of quail wrapped in bacon...

Pate in jar.


Despite some encouragement (cajoling?) to order chips like everyone else, I chose glazed carrots as my side.  You can decide whether that's because I am a healthy eater or because I knew I would get to eat all of Catherine's chips anyway.  Whatever the reason, it was a good choice.

So, in keeping with the general spirit of the trip, I managed to kill 3 birds (and at least 1 pig) with one meal.  I don't know if they have snowmen in England, but if so it's entirely possible that I also killed 6 snowmen to bring me those carrots.  (Out of concern for mom, though, I will refrain from making any Mr. Potatohead jokes.  Sometimes a potato is just a potato).

Anyway, I think everyone had a good time.  

Thank you to Jane and Cynthia for making time to come see us on such short notice!  Glad we could get together.


I don't always bawl uncontrollably, but when I do, I prefer Kleenex Mansize Tissues.

It must be a British thing.

We now return to our usual programming.  Note that I didn't get to the rabid squirrel yet, so the post is not over. 

Chris and Linden took us to a butcher where we picked up...some duck breasts!  That has been sitting on my todo list for a while.  I decided to cook them with thyme and orange, which is a good combo.

Here I have scored the skin to help the fat render.  And my did it render.  These things release an ungodly amount of fat.  I knew that and I was still surprised.

We put (a small fraction of) that rendered fat to good use on the spot.  It went in the mashed potatoes and the vegetables.

Except, oops, I put way too much in the vegetables.  They were braising so I couldn't really tell how much of the liquid was fat and how much was water.  I mean, not that I really mind an abundance of duck fat.  But that was not right.  Oh well, life goes on.

As for the duck breasts, hey hey:

I squeezed some juice and reduced it to a sticky glaze.  But we used clementines instead of oranges, and for the second time now I was disappointed with the substitution.  I'm coming to think that clementines just shouldn't be used here.  Sigh.  Also the duck breasts were slightly overcooked, mainly because I am stupid.  Though I'm sure Catherine would disagree with me.  (About them being overcooked, not about me being stupid).

All of that said, overall it was a good meal and a great experiment.

Maybe Linden will post about the panang noodle fusion dish they made for us.  It was yummy but I don't have the pics.


This post is getting way too long, so let's skip to the walk in the park.  But I'm warning you, our walk in the park was no walk in the park.  We were attacked by an evil squirrel!

At first glance an ordinary squirrel, but for the glowing red eyes. Make no mistake, this is no creature to be trifled with.  The beast approaches!

That is my shoe.

Sensing the danger, I tried to appease him with bread, but he was not remotely interested.  He was after something more.  He was after me.  Without warning, evil squirrel flew threw the air, latched on to my pant leg, and began to scurry up.  Unfortunately I was too shocked to get a picture of evil squirrel in action, but as luck would have it, Monty Python has already dramatized the exact scene:

The horror!  I mean, look at the bones!
Brace of quail devoured by evil squirrel at Cote restaurant.

I escaped with just a flesh wound.

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