I’m having 50 coffees with 50 people…here’s the latest…

Posted by Krista on June 12, 2015

When I quit my job in May, my friend Antonia showed me this article about making big life changes. You can read the article over on Inc’s website, but the headline is that when you’re making a big life change, you should have 50 coffees with 50 people. So I’ve been gradually making the rounds (it’s really only Week #2) and it’s been an awesome experience so far. Chris told me I should write a blog post about these coffees so here is Part I of a series. (Obviously, I have interpreted “coffee” and “people” loosely.) And hey, you might be on my list but I just haven’t reached out to you yet. Think about how hard it is to coordinate coffee dates with 50 people, my friends!!

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Lunch with my friend Louise: Louise and I ran the British 10k together back in 2008. We hired a running coach and everything. We had lunch at Brasserie Zedel and talking about how much fun the race was. She had just run another a 10k that morning. I, unfortunately, am not ready to run a 10k anytime soon. BUT…I came home from lunch and and downloaded Couch to 5K. I just started the program so I’ll get there, eventually. Hopefully in the next month or two or three. The Verdict: I loved Brasserie Zedel. Why haven’t I eaten here before?? What a great value too. You should go here. I’m going to take my dad here.

Startup panel at The University of Chicago London Campus: Many years ago, I managed to graduate from the MBA program at The University of Chicago. I haven’t had a chance to get to any of their educational events at the London campus since I’ve been back, but on my first true day of unemployment, I decided to wander over to their panel on startups. Great idea! Not only did I run into an old colleague, but I also picked up some great tips on how to get into the world of tech startups. The disappointing bit is that they said there would be snacks after the panel. There were crisps. Crisps are not snacks. Big takeaway? Check out Escape the City.

Lunch with American in London: I know Alice from her London restaurant blog, which she sadly hasn’t updated in FOUR YEARS. I saw her last summer when I first moved back to London but haven’t seen her since. We met up at Taberna do Mercado where I ran into Nuno himself and he remembered me!! So that was lovely and kinda awesome. And then Alice and I had a great lunch where we chatted about all sorts of expat things and work things and good things. (And the boring things like freaking U.S. TAXES.) The Verdict: I liked Taberna do Mercado but I was still in my “Wait wait why aren’t I at work” panicky haze so I barely remember our meal…except for the delicious sandwiches. I think I need to go back.

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Dinner with Chris and Leila at Bar Boulud: Earlier in the week, I had reached out to Chris about meeting for lunch sometime. We set up a date to meet (more in a future post), but in the interim, he suggested I join him for the 5th anniversary party at Bar Boulud. Hello. Yes. We had a great time at dinner and with Evyn, Daniel’s lovely PR person and I managed to not eat all the oysters. The Verdict: I love Bar Boulud. You will too.

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Snacks at Vinoteca Clerkenwell: My friends John and David legally confirmed their union after 20 years of togetherness!!! We knew we needed a firm foundation before the festivities started. So Ben and Fiona and I met up at Vinoteca and ate all the rabbit rillettes and pork belly before the party got started. Fi gave me some new verbage to think on…Portfolio Career?

Outcomes from Week #1

  • Downloaded the Couch to 5K app.
  • Learned about Escape the City.
  • Nuno Mendes knows who I am.
  • Tiki Chris invited me to Bar Boulud after I reached out to him to meet up later this month.
  • I met some new people…Leila and Evyn.
  • PORTFOLIO CAREER

Jamie’s Italian, Covent Garden

Posted by Krista on June 11, 2015

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.

  1. How are those girls eating all of that?
  2. 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. 

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Casas del XVI, Santo Domingo

Posted by Krista on June 11, 2015

After kicking myself in the head for spending as much as I did per night at the Eden Rock Cap Cana, I made my way to Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. My trifecta of hotel sites (Jetsetter, Splendia, & Mr. & Mrs Smith) had directed me towards Casas del XVI and boy am I glad they did.

Because I honestly never wanted to leave this hotel. I wanted to hire their decorator to come to my house. I wanted to kidnap their breakfast chef. I wanted to drink all their honor bar rum. The hotel is super small but super sweet. All of the staff were amazingly lovely. And when I had a bit of a mix up with my transport back to Punta Cana at the end of my stay that left me sitting on the side of a busy roadway for 90 minutes waiting for another driver, without hesitation, they refunded my ride. Casas del XVI is a class act. If you ever find yourself in Santo Domingo — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — stay here.

Here’s a video of my lovely room…I loved the tilework, the ceiling, and the art work. Very well done and well-curated. Thank you, Casas del XVI for a lovely, lovely stay.

I stayed three nights at Casas del XVI in April 2015 at a rate of $260.35 USD per night. 

Rex & Mariano

Posted by Krista on June 8, 2015

For someone that is normally bang on time, I’ve been late to the Rex & Mariano party. Actually, I’ve been late to a lot of parties since I returned to London last summer. All work and no play makes Krista a very, very dull gal. So I am making up for lost time! Lots of lost time. I’ve missed Mr. Noodles and Su-Lin! It’s been too long. But there we were, just like it were yesterday (or, errr five years ago) helping ourselves to all the delicious things at Rex & Mariano with greedy abandon.

Because Rex & Mariano is delicious. Very delicious. Especially if you are like me and want to eat nothing but seafood until the day you die. (I will die slowly…of mercury poisoning.) And Rex & Mariano is not too pricey either! iPad ordering keeps their labor costs low. So that’s neat.

We ate a lot of things at Rex & Mariano and there were only two disappointments: the mushy salmon carpaccio and the courgette fries. So don’t get those, but get everything else! Especially the fritto misto. And the Sicilian prawns. All the Sicilian prawns.

Strangely, for a Saturday lunch time, the place was eerily empty. In fact, every time I’ve walked by Rex & Mariano, it’s been eerily empty. That’s more Sicilian prawns for me then!

Other lessons learned:

  • Pace your ordering. We ordered all our mains at the same time and, well, they all arrived at the same time. (Surprise!!) We could have used some spacing in between, given that we were sharing everything.
  • Wash your hands! You can wash your hands all over Rex & Mariano! It’s actually GENIUS. And they have Ren products in the loo if you really want to walk all the way back to the loo to wash your hands with very expensive stuff that smells really nice.
  • Wines on tap! Lots of wines on tap! Another genius idea! I want to hang out at the bar at Rex & Mariano just so I can drink from all the wine taps! That being said, I am a firm believer now in the £3.50 125 ml house wine. (That’s a £21 bottle. Just take a £10.50 bottle and put a 50% markup on it and then sell it by 125 ml pourings and you’ll get to £3.50.) I am going to forget the exact numbers on R&M’s menu, but the wines by the glass started more in the vicinity of £5 quid a glass.
  • I’ve been spelling focaccia wrong for most of my life.
  • I really should start cataloging the hand wash used in restaurant loos along with the cheapest wine by the glass. It’s fun!

The Verdict: GO. Eat all the Sicilian prawns and wash your hands multiple times.

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Oh look, Urbanspoon is now Zomato so here’s the new Zomato spoonback…let’s hope these puppies load faster than the Urbanspoon ones…

Now That I’ve Left My Employer…

Posted by Krista on May 28, 2015

Yes, I have left my job. “Quit” sounds no negative. I did quit, it’s true. But I prefer the term “left.” I have a lot of thoughts about jobs these days. I’ll save them for when we have coffee. (Keep reading.) Here’s what I’m going to do next…

1. Have fifty coffees with fifty people. My friend Antonia told me about this article in Inc. about making big life decisions. I like it. I’m going to do it. I’ve already started doing it. Do you want to have coffee with me and talk London and travel and social media and life changes? Let me know and I’ll add you to my list of 50 people to have coffee with. (Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be coffee. We can eat too. Or drink. I’m kinda on a fiscal diet though, just to be clear.)

2. Do the things I said I was going to do in this post and do them soon. Like this summer. Before the August bank holiday weekend, if I have to give myself a deadline.

3. Do more with social media. Instagram, Twitter. In the early days, 3,000 followers on Twitter was a big deal. Now it is nothing.  London moved on in the four years I was gone. (Four years!) Things changed. People changed. The London restaurant blog scene changed. I’ve changed. I’ve been working too much. I gotta get back IN IT. I can’t decide if I should do more with Vine because part of me thinks I should concentrate my efforts on one photo/video platform and Instagram lets you do video so why should I use Vine too? Please advise. Also, I have looked at Snapchat but I am not sure about that one either, but maybe I will try it out and see. I will set a goal of three two Snapchat videos by the August bank holiday weekend. That sounds good.

4. Get rid of stuff. I am trying to lead a simpler life. I’ve downsized a lot already — stuff expands to fill the space, my people — but I want to downsize more. Purses, shoes, old documents I’ve been carting around. A lot of it has to go. I want to live in an oasis of calm. I want to be able to move at a moment’s notice.

5. Spend more time with my London restaurant blog. I love my blog, even though I hate it (and WordPress) sometimes. I’ve missed my blog. It makes me a better  person. I plan on spending more time with my blog. (“More” is to be defined.)

6.. Go to cardio boxing more often. Like I said before…stuff expands to fill the space.

7. Go to Berlin in July. And travel more, in general. I’m at 48 countries so far. I’d like to hit 50 before the year is over.

I think seven goals is enough. Don’t you? Oh and before you think I’m totally crazy for leaving a good job with a good company — my parents don’t  think I’m crazy and that’s very important! Everything is going to be a-ok!! I promise. I’ve got a new gig that I’ll tell you about soon…when we have coffee!