I never thought I’d say this but guys, I’m ADDICTED to Snapchat. I experimented with it last summer and never quite figured it out. That’s because I didn’t follow anyone who was doing cool stuff. Then I saw an article somewhere about Adventurous Kate and how you should follow her on Snapchat and I did and now I totally get it! And I love it. In university, I used to do radio and I loved putting together my shows. Snapchat can be sort of like that, which I love. And it’s one of the reasons why I like Adventurous Kate’s use of Snapchat so much. It’s almost like she makes little news reels of her travels and adventures. She did a great series on her visit to Savannah Georgia the other week. Now I just have to get over my fear of selfies. (So so so not into the selfie or lecturing the camera.)
Anyhow, I say all this because I’ve been snapchatting a lot of my meals and adventures these days. If you want to follow me, find me on @kristainlondon. (Surprise.) Or do the whole Snapchat scan thing by scanning my Snapchat thingy over in the right sidebar.
I don’t have a cat (many of the people I follow on Snapchat seem to have cats) and I don’t do a lot of (any?) talking TO the camera though, just so you know. So I guess what I’m saying is that Snapchat is the most instantaneous way to know what I am up to. (I find with Instagram, I string out my photos over time rather than posting them in the moment.) The other night, while I was at Pizza Buzz with May from Eat Cook Explore, I Snapchatted the interior of the restaurant, but oddly not the food. I was too focused on EATING the pizza. Here’s the interior…
I was also focused on Atila, the uber-charming pizza maker. Guess where Atila is from?? HUNGARY. Atila the Hun, get it?? Love it. Love Atila. And I love his pizzas.
Although if you go to Pizza Buzz, I wouldn’t recommend the odd combinations they offer on the chalkboard. We tried one of them — veal meatballs and caramelized onions — but the onions made the pizza too sweet and who wants a sweet pizza? Not this New Yorker. There was also some sort of Irish pizza with potatoes that I just didn’t even want to imagine.
We did admire the crispy, slightly charred crust of both our pizzas though. Only 2 minutes in the pizza oven, flaming away at the back of the restaurant! 2 minutes! The miracle of pizza, my friends. Of the three combinations of pizza we tried — May wisely went for a half/half — we liked her spicy pizza with nduja sausage the best.
With our pizzas, we enjoyed a very good version of a Caesar salad, with nice creamy, garlicky dressing. We also had some burrata with rocket; the burrata could have been a bit creamier but one really cannot complain about burrata because, well, it’s burrata. And to top it all off, I had GOAT MILK MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM. Like I had died and gone to heaven. (I really really like mint chocolate chip.)
The Verdict: Pizza Buzz is fun and friendly. Pizzas start at about £7 and go up from there, depending on what toppings you order. You can see the full menu over here. Note that things look like they could quickly add up…
The Fine Print: I was a guest of May’s during our visit to Pizza Buzz. She was invited to try Pizza Buzz out so we did not pay for our meal.
One day, I will leave EC1, I swear. BUT EVERYTHING I NEED IS RIGHT HERE. So why go far? And look, there’s a new pizza place. Did you know that pizza is the #1 most ordered item on JustEat? Oddly, for the UK at least, pizza is about the last thing I ever order as takeaway. I much prefer an in-person pizza. Maybe it’s the way bridge & tunnel people in New York are raised. We eat pizza IN PERSON.
So The Wedge Issue. Relatively new to the ‘hood — oh how I wish their was a neighborhood Facebook group to discuss these new local things — and I was hungry and maybe the tiniest bit hungover so I made the slog and was one of the maybe four people in the place. After placing my order relatively quickly — I had sussed out my order in advance — the smoke detector went off multiple times . Surprise surprise, the restaurant filled with smoke. Doors and windows were opened so instead we shivered as we sat waiting, eventually smoke free. Then they were out of the IPA I wanted, and then my replacement beer order took ages to arrive because they were letting the foam settle. (Communication, people.) My Soho pizza — N’duja sausage, peppers, chilli, mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce — was tasty but a little soggy in the middle which made me sad. The husband-wife team that run the place seem very sweet, albeit a bit distracted. (American? Canadian? I’m not sure.) But hmmm. Too many questions. Most specifically, who were ALL THE PEOPLE that came out of the basement???
The Verdict: Maybe I caught them on an off day. I’d give them another shot. Good for groups and for one of those lunches where you have to please a lot of people with different tastes.
I have been eating a lot of pizza lately. Maybe it’s because of my recent New York trip. (More about that soon, I promise.) I ate a lot of pizza in New York and well, I came back to London and was still in the zone and just couldn’t stop eating anything sauce-y and cheese-y.
Pizza Union totally delivers. On a crazily rainy afternoon the other week, we scarfed down two piping hot pizzas — one Vesuvio (pepperoni, green chillies, cracked chillies) and one Stagioni (cotto ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, artichokes, black olives) — in the blink of an eye. And I mean blink because Pizza Union is not kidding when they say these are “superfast” pizzas. There were pretty much no minutes between placing our order and being served. Maybe five minutes, max?? We washed our delight down with the house red wine that we affectionately called “pizza wine” because, well, it was a very good pizza wine.
Americans amongst you will laugh when you are handed one of those “Your table is ready” devices which will blink and buzz when it’s your turn to head up to the front and pick up your pizza. That’s part of how Pizza Union does this so fast. You place your order at the till, get your device and find a seat. (When we were there at lunchtime on a Friday, the place was PACKED. By 2:30 pm, it had emptied out.) The staff are seriously cranking out pizzas like there is no tomorrow so it won’t be long before your buzzer is a-blinkin’.
A Pizza Margherita at Pizza Union goes for an astonishing value price of £3.95. The Vesuvio, £5.50 and the Stagione £6.50. How they keep prices so low, I don’t understand!! Either rent is cheap or they do so much in volume that it all sort of works itself out.
During our stay, we also enjoyed some corn nuts, a verdura salad and some crazy delicious desserts that I cannot even explain. Deep fried rings of deliciousness stuffed with caramel and nutella, covered in cocoa. Messy but delicious.
We really enjoyed our time at Pizza Union. It’s buzzy and fun and well, a terrific good value. Staff during our visit were super friendly and nice. It’s a student-y type of place bound to be popular with the kids. But it will be popular with me as well.
The Verdict: Fun for the entire family.
I was a guest of Pizza Union and invited Denise along.
The new sightly unemployed Krista is the “Say Yes Krista.” Yes, after years of saying NO, I’m saying Yes. Because someone has to. And I’d rather it be me then some of the crazies. (Sorry, crazies.) So when Jamie’s Italian offered me a £50 voucher to eat at one of their restaurants, I said YES and invited the infamous Wine Sleuth along with me to check out Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden.
And you know what? We had a great time. The atmosphere was lively! The food was enjoyable! The wine was in abundance! And even better, our server, Carlos, was pretty much the nicest, best server I’ve ever had in London. When he told us that he helped train new staff in new restaurants, I totally got it. If I ran Jamie’s Italian, I’d want Carlos to train all my staff too. Thank you, Carlos, for a wonderful experience and for making the Fritto Misto happen!!!
In short, my main takeaway after my £50 voucher experience at Jamie’s Italian was that I should SAY YES more often.
Jamie Oliver is a cheeky chappy now isn’t he? And so is his food. He is being funny sometimes with his menu. Me? I would like to have a long talk with the person in marketing who called the fried ravioli “Italian Nachos,” but otherwise, how can one NOT enjoy fried ravioli?? I accidentally ate the entire spicy pepper on our bruschetta which caused some problems for me the next day (!!!) but damn if we still didn’t polish off both the ravioli and the bruschetta starters and a mixed basket of very nice bread as well.
The carbonara was luscious although after discussing it with Carlos, we determined that it was not of the creamless variety. I don’t care! The SAY YES Krista is less of purist than the old fully-employed Krista. The carbonara was still enjoyable! My dad would have loved it! (I’ve learned over the years to never take my father to an Italian restaurant in London. He is always disappointed. I don’t think he would be disappointed at Jamie’s Italian.) The sausage pappardelle was less enticing — lacking a depth of flavor — but we still polished it off.
Carlos had initially suggested that we try the Fritto Misto but then it turned out that they were still waiting for their seafood delivery. 20 minutes became one hour and 20 minutes but Denise and I were catching up on all things social media and drinking all the white wine, so it didn’t matter really. When the huge platter of Fritto Misto finally arrived, the Italians at the table next to us looked on in horror. I don’t know if you know this, but I can totally read people’s minds and I knew exactly what they were thinking.
How are those girls eating all of that?
We want some.
And while the Fritto Misto was a little short on seasoning, multiple lemon wedges delivered by Carlos on request made up for that. Even my arteries acknowledged that the quality of frying was commendable. Also, a great selection of seafood. Not a one-trick scampi pony. Excellent work, Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden. Excellent work. (But try a little pinch of Old Bay next time.)
In short, we had a good time here. I’d go back and bring my dad. We meant to stop in the front of the restaurant on the way out and check out the books and products on sale, but 1.25 liters of white wine later, we forgot. This means I will have to go back.
The Verdict: Fun for the entire family. Say yes!
Marketing bit: Jamie’s Italian does a Gold Card membership which is free and offers members little treats and promotions whenever they visit any of the restaurants. Join now.
Obligatory disclaimer in a normal font size that humans can read: Jamie’s Italian was kind enough to give me a £50 voucher for lunch at one of their restaurants. We still managed to spend £42 extra pounds AND we still tipped on what would have been the full amount. As you can (I hope) tell, I still wrote whatever I wanted to write, even with the voucher.
Julie left us here in Chicago and moved to DC. Her boss’ boss’ boss in the President now. That’s pretty cool. So I went out to DC for a visit, hoping for an intro. When I was a kid, we considered everything south of Pennsylvania “The South,”which I think is funny now as a Midwestern transplant. That being said, visiting DC made me miss the East Coast and most notably, the preppiness. I miss preppies…seersucker, boat shoes, Lacoste, belts with boats and whales on them. And I miss the food…clams and clams and more clams. I did NOT have clams when I was in DC but I did eat a Proof, a wine bar full of beautiful people. The gnocchi was beautiful. I would say you should get some, but it’s not on the menu anymore. Sorry!
The Verdict: A nice meal and a very nice wine list. I’d go back here.
P.S. Julie did not introduce me to the president. She owes me.
I had in my head this idea. That I wouldn’t go anywhere for July and August. That I wold stay in town and try to enjoy Chicago. This is my second weekend of that, and frankly speaking, I’m doing a terrible job with all this. Instead of relaxing and exploring, I’m finding myself at Home Depot, Target, the Post Office (!!!) and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Worst bit? I REALLY want to go to IKEA. NOOOOOOOO.
I did have a very nice morning at the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market last Sunday though, helped by some Divvy bikes and some classical music. (But then…stressful…Divvy didn’t show that I had ever returned my bike. They’ve still got some kinks to work out there, apparently.)
Where I’m going with all this is that for the first time in ages, I did take a bit of a break and finally took advantage of work summer hours on Friday and met @Zimmerino for lunch at Siena Tavern. I was a bit nervous about this lunch because Siena Tavern is one of those cavernous River North places with filament flightbulbs and cheap bathrooms. (Not even a soap dispenser. Seriously. Just a container of Softsoap.)
And I was somewhat right to be nervous. Because here’s how this all went down.
Me: “Hi, I don’t have a reservation but I’d like table for two if you’ve got one.” (It was 1:30 pm on a Friday, close to the end of the lunch rush.)
Them: “We’re all booked in the restaurant right now, but you can find a table in the bar area. It’s first come first served.” Fine.
Me, sitting at the bar, about 15 minutes later, “Hi, we’re going to move to that table over there that just opened up if you don’t mind.”
Bartender: “I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that. Have you asked anyone if you can do that?”
Me: “Um, I guess I’m sort of asking you. The front desk said it was okay, so maybe we can just close out our tab and move over…”
Bartender: “Well, I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that but if that’s what they told you at the front desk, I guess you can.”
And then we ordered some food that took ages and ages to arrive. The brussel sprouts salad was rough and dry, and the coccoli, which everyone raves about (dough puffs slightly bigger than golf balls, prosciutto di parma wrapped around stracchino cheese, “drizzled” with truffle honey) was okay, but for me, the honey ruined everything. Too sweet, too cloying. Then the waitstaff disappeared forever and ever. And then we had some gnocchi that I can only describe as overcooked wet blobs of something in a decent cream sauce, and then a prosciutto, pear and arugula pizza where the pears had been “drizzled” with powdered sugar. I don’t want powdered sugar on my pizza. (But the arugula was very good and fresh, and the pizza crust itself was nicely done.) Ah, and then the waitstaff disappeared again and us and the table next to us spent a lot of time trying to flag someone, anybody, down.
Best line? Our waitperson walked by with two very fine looking beers on her tray, stunning in color with fine foamy heads. I had just gotten a beer, but it wasn’t anywhere near as nice looking as the two she had on her tray. “What are those? I asked her.
“Beers,” she answered.
The Verdict: Inconsistent cooking and flavor combos that didn’t work for me particularly well. Too much sweetness. In general, not my scene. But many people will like it here.