31 January 2013

Favorite Book + Pairing: January 2013

I've been shamefully indolent with my book-related posts.  I used to at least cover my Year of Reading, but even that fell by the wayside in 2012.  Well, let's rectify this in 2013 by picking a favorite of the month!

I completed 6 books this month, which is pretty good for January.  Multiplied by 12, I could possibly read 72 books this year.  Also, most Januaries have not turned out well for my reading record.  It's surprising; you'd think it being an indoor month I'd go nuts. 

Turns out I'm already breaking the rules, because my 'book' this month is not one, but a trilogy, the Leviathan novels by Scott Westerfeld.  It was a rare foray into the world of Steampunk, even though these were not set in Victorian London; instead it was an alternative look at World War I.  Archduke Ferdinand and his wife do get assassinated, but in this story they are survived by one son, Alek, who, with a small party of loyal men, flee Austria and eventually find themselves on a British airship, the Leviathan.  This airship is actually alive, as the British empire are 'Darwinists', who make technology and weaponry out of genetically modified animals.  This makes them the natural enemy of Alek's 'Clanker' nation, who are joined also by the Germans.  He befriends a midshipman, 'Dylan' Sharp, who is actually Deryn Sharp, a girl who really likes to fly.  Adventure ensues.

This isn't necessarily my kind of reading, since there was enough technical detail to bring me close to boredom, but the premise and the imagination of the story kept me reading.  Well, obviously, since after Leviathan I wolfed down Behemoth and Goliath in quick succession.  Also, the cross dressing element reminded me a bit of a Shakespeare comedy, which I have no problem with at all.  And my compliments to Keith Thompson, whose drawings really helped bring the action to life, as well as all the crazy 'beasties'!

It's hard to pin down one kind of tea that would pair with these books, but you could do something like a British blend in a metallic teapot.  That should bring out some of the proper flavor.  Or just choose by whatever region the scene is set in at the moment.  Between the Ottoman Empire, Japan, Russia, and New York you have plenty of options!

29 January 2013

Books and Cake! In London!


It's been some time since I did a Tea + Book pairing.  While this isn't specifically a pairing post, it does sound down the truth of the matter: Teatime and Booktime are usually one and the same for me.  That's why, many years ago now, I got excited when bookstores began to boast a cafe in house more frequently. Of course, in recent years we've seen a demise in the Borders/Barnes and Noble model, so it's more of a challenge to find this pairing.  That's why I made a point of coming to the London Review Book Shop as soon as I was aware of it.

It wasn't as easy as it should have been, because it's near the British Museum, a place I had the hardest time  finding for some reason.  And by the time I did, I was reeling with hunger and cold, so my first stop was Wagamama.  I still had a sweet tooth, and a sense of entitlement after walking one of my craziest long walks ever, at least in London.

As you can see from where I was sitting, it's by no means a frilly, girly place, though the cakes had Alice in Wonderland-themed tags.  Their selection was a real treat, though.  I ended up having a Gluten Free Pistachio Rose cake, with a Blackcurrant infusion.  I'm not always a fan of GF cake - it can be dry and crumbly, but when it's done right, it's done right!  And this cake was just right.

It wasn't crowded, but the staff was busy enough.  There was a healthy mix of people, and no obnoxious conversation to sully my chill out time.  I caught up on my travel journalling, which wasn't always as easy as I thought it'd be on my own.

The bookshop itself was brilliant.  That's not hard to be in London - even their chain bookstores are thrilling for me.  There's just enough difference in titles than New York to make me wish I could spend an extra week just among the stacks.  Still, I wouldn't want to spoil myself.  Then it was onward to another crazy long walk, but not before I took a header outside the neighboring rubber stamp shop.

I really fall for those kind of places...
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04 January 2013

BB Bakery: Covent Garden Branch

Before I leave for London, I always do a bit of research to see if there's any new tea spots to check out.  Or, of course, if there's any older spots that I want to finally get to.  It's easier now, with so many online sources, but in a way that makes it more complicated, as now I have to narrow it down, or make sure a particularly wonderful place has not fallen between the cracks.  In the end, no matter how much I research and plan, I don't manage to hit all the spots I'd like to.  Mainly it's a matter of time restriction, but also, it's not exactly cost effective to go everywhere.  

This particular trip, I was also weighed down by less than stellar health.  That I managed to get two afternoon teas in is only explained by the fact that I'm not entirely reasonable.  Still, I only made a dent in my tearooms-to-do-list, and that's fine.  Like I said before, I love having something to look forward to next time.    
And, something unexpected happened.

On Friday, after I'd spent a long time in the Tate (more on that another time), I headed to the West End and wandered around Covent Garden.  Anyone who knows me well has heard me rave about Covent Garden, which to me has always been one of the most charming tourist traps on the planet.  But it wasn't so charming during the holiday shopping season.  No, it was overrun by people who have no concept of personal space, and I just kept getting crankier and crankier.  I mean, I didn't even go back to Covent Garden for the rest of my trip, which is highly unusual.  As I was edging slowly away from the area, though, I found BB Bakery, which I'd never heard of before, and was immediately drawn to its window displays of macarons.  Sometimes I like to stick to the classics, and this place looked like it could be an upstart, but I was hungry and tabled my snobbery for a time.

I'm glad I did.  From the beginning, I was pleased.  The chairs were upholstered and comfy, and I could have spent hours in my high-backed stripey chair in the corner (I always sit near walls when I can - I'd  prefer a draft to a table in the middle of a room.)

The menu was extensive - there was so much I would have loved to try, but it will come as no surprise that I picked afternoon tea.  It turns out they usually require a reservation for this, but as they weren't too busy they made an exception.

I sat near a couple whose conversation sounded like it was straight out of an Alexander McCall Smith novel.  Do all posh British people speak of risotto?

Here's the spread:

Pretty teacup!  That's what I'm talkin' about! 

Gasp!  Open tomatoes!  I removed them with a napkin.  It seemed unseemly to ask the staff to do this for me when I hadn't mentioned my aversion in the first place.  Of course, now I can barely stand to look at these pics.  Once removed, by the way, the sandwiches were wonderful - the bread was a bit rough - I think that's a French tea sandwich thing.

The scones were ever so homemade tasting.  The macarons were delightful, as were the cakes, though sadly I couldn't finish them. 

The English have a fondness for strawberries, I think.  They're on everything.  I loved this set (how cute is the creamer?)

I have sooo many tea places to try still, but I might try BB again.  I'd also recommend this to any tea lover or Francophile, or anyone who likes girly places that aren't sickeningly girly.
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