Monday, September 27, 2010


When I moved to NYC a few years ago, I was devastated by how fantastically overpriced food was. Eventually, though, I got used to the crazy prices and found the shops and products and restaurants that fit my budget, and ended up loving New York for its food despite my limited resources. I figured if I could make it work in crazy NYC, I can make it work anywhere (to paraphrase Frank).

But then I moved to London last week. Wow.

New York is cheap in comparison to London. London is like $12-for-greasy-chinese-food-expensive. And yes, for the past eight or nine months, I have been living in Oslo, which is notorious for being the second most expensive city in the world, but people seem to use Oslo in a different way than people use London and New York. Oslo is a small city, so home is never that far off if you need to stop by for a bite to eat, whereas in in New York, eating out is the norm. People meet up at the pub to socialize here in London, but in Norway, there's a long-standing tradition of drinking at home before going out. It's just the things people do to get around the prices.

I have to remind myself that I'm new in London. I'm so ready to be savvy about the city, know where everything is, know where all the great places and deals are, but I can't yet. It's just not the way it works when you're new somewhere. I have to give London time to show itself from its gorgeous (and inexpensive) side and myself time to explore those sides.

And even now, one week into living here, despite my initial panic, things have started looking up food-wise. Yes, I'm going to have to be extremely careful with money, but man, what a great city to be careful in.  I'm already in love with London, with its history and traditions, its busy feel and cute neighborhoods.

Being a person that moves around a lot, you end up meeting a lot of people that do the same, and sometimes, if you're lucky, your paths cross again. Which is happening right now! I met up with a friend I got to know in New York for dinner the other night. She's been here for a few months already and knew a great place to take me that was right up my alley.

Isarn is an adorable and affordable (£6-£9 for a main) thai restaurant with a fantastic astmosphere in Islington. There's a little garden out in the back, and the feeling is intimate and cozy. Most importantly, the food is fantastic. I had spinach and butternut squash stirfry, and my friend had braised duck with shiitake, ginger, and spring onion. And then crème brulée for dessert. YUM.

And then this weekend, I met up with yet another friend, this one from Oslo, who took me to a great café in Shoreditch, 1001. They have an outdoor barbeque going all day with amazing burgers and sausages and loads of vegetarian options. I had a marinated chicken burger with all the fixins and these fantastic grilled potato wedges. £4.70. A cup of lemon and ginger tea will get you real bits of lemon and ginger infusing your drink. Relaxing, chill, quality. Absolutely fantastic.

1001's grilled chicken sandwich

Most importantly, I got my kitchen set up this week and went food shopping. I'm real excited about the food stores here. Yes, they're pricey, but overcomeable, and there are loads of local and organic options.

So Thursday last week found me sitting by my window looking out at the little garden outside my building, the London Eye off in the distance, my first home-cooked meal in London in hand, and I realized that yes, London and I will overcome and look past these initial expense difficulties and be good to one another, with time and friends and some great cooking to help us.


Pasta with Mushroom and Green Pepper Cream Sauce

1 garlic clove
3-4 big mushrooms
1/2 green pepper
1 + 2 Ts vegetable oil
2 Ts flour
4 dl milk
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 ts dried basil
salt and pepper
1 dl freshly grated parmesan

Put some pasta on to boil. Chop up garlic, mushrooms, and pepper and soften over medium heat in a pan. Set aside. Stir 2 Ts oil with 2 Ts flour, adding milk and stirring vigorously between each addition until sauce is right consistency. Add bouillon cube, and season with salt, pepper, and basil to taste. Add the mushroom mixture to the sauce, then turn down the heat and add the cheese. Stir until melted into the sauce. Serve nice and warm!

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