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LONDON CALLING

 
 

July is always a great time to get away from San Francisco, even if it means going from our fog to London fog. A change of fog always does one good. We hit the tarmac just as an unusual heat wave was receding, and immediately headed out to explore Soho's restaurant scene. I was amazed to see how many restaurants in close proximity to one another have their own cookbooks: Ducksoup, Palomar, Ceviche, Spuntino, Polpo, Nopi, Barrafina, Bocca di Lupo...just to name a few! Some smart book agent seems to be making the rounds in London, and it was so fun to see and eat at so many restaurants whose books I've sold. Aside from eating out, we were invited - yawn - to Yotam Ottolenghi's house for dinner, where we snarfed down brothy, tomatoey beef meatballs and pillowy, almondy English cake whilst chatting with him and his chef/partner Sami Tamimi. We visited several beautiful bookstores, especially Persephone Books and Daunt Books. Persephone is also a publisher of classic literature, and I loved how their colorful endpapers match patterns from the year each book was originally published. Their little shop in Bloomsbury is a treasure. Daunt specializes in travel books, and we stopped in to pick up maps and guides to Cornwall and Devon, where we headed next.

Down a winding lane squeezed by flowering hedges and stone walls is lovely Coombeshead Farm, owned by chefs Tom Adams and April Bloomfield. Put this on your bucket list. From your cozy room, you can stroll through gardens and pastures dotted with sheep and crosscut by babbling brooks. Foxgloves and hollyhocks share space with the food garden and outdoor oven. The attached restaurant bakes their own bread and makes a mean fudge. The chef is very focused on fermenting and pickling, which overwhelmed our first meal there, but it's early days for them, and I think the restaurant will find its balance. We met many new friends at the communal table, and even ran into New Zealand food writer Lauraine Jacobs, who has spoken at Omnivore! In Devon, we rented a stone longhouse built in c.1500, in the middle of Dartmoor National Park. Put this on your bucket list, too. Hiking on the moors alongside ponies, horned sheep, and grazing cattle, across Bronze Age stone walls and ruins, is just one of those things that's hard to beat. My most memorable meal there was one of rabbit pie, Otter Ale, and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream, all eaten while watching the sun set over the moors and pastures of Devon.

Late in the trip, we headed back to London, where we met with - snore - Nigella Lawson for brunch at La Fromagerie, and had a wonderful, long discussion about cookbook writing, cheese, and of course, Trump/Brexit. She had a lot to say about all these subjects, and it was really fun to chat with such a seasoned cookbook writer (her first book came out 20 years ago, and her first television appearance ten years before that). One of her biggest challenges is writing for people who don't cook, and trying to entice them to try it and gain confidence in their ability, which I think she does with aplomb. Everyone we met in England was so friendly and kind, directing us to great hikes, gardens, and meals. I'll really miss the openness I feel to new experiences while on vacation, and need to remind myself I can do the same thing at home. Or just take more vacations.

Without further ado, here's my list of London restaurants we loved. Dropping in for a late lunch or early dinner is always a smart move if you don't feel like making reservations ahead of time:

Palomar: My favorite meal in London. Israeli food including fresh hummus with octopus, beet carpaccio, and a Yemeni pot bread served with tahini.

Nopi: An upscale restaurant owned by Ottolenghi, with a fresh take on Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines. And check out the crazy disco-era bathrooms!

Hoppers: a stellar Sri Lankan restaurant whose bonemarrow varuval with roti bread for dipping was simply ethereal.

Maroush: Lebanese mezze served with a smile and for a great price. Spicy potatoes, creamy hummus, and eggplant everything. Hit their bakery across the street for baklava and halvah/pistachi ice cream.

Roti Chai: Indian street food is served upstairs, with a more formal dining room downstairs. The street food was fast and fantastic - they'd kill it here.

Quo Vadis: Elegant dining atmosphere for a very reasonable price. Try the eel sandwich. Trust me.

Chiltern Firehouse: A great place to see and be seen for Sunday brunch. Not memorable food, but a beautiful place and pleasant atmosphere.

Morito: The one that got away. We never got here, but it was recommended to us by both Yotam and Nigella, so that should be enough for you. I'll have to make do with their cookbook.

To see more photos from my trip, check out my Instagram page!

Sincerely,

Celia Sack, Owner
Omnivore Books on Food
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Upcoming Events at Omnivore Books

 

Thurs. July 27 • Patricia Tanumihardja • Farm to Table Asian Secrets: Vegan & Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Author Patricia Tanumihardja is an experienced food writer and expert on Asian and sustainable farm-to-table cooking. She shows you how to buy and use the freshest in-season produce to create delicious dishes with startlingly new flavors and textures. She also explains in this Asian cookbook how the use of contrasting textures (for example silky tofu with crunchy peanuts) can create greater food enjoyment and a stimulating new dining experience.

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Sat. July 29 • Brittany Wood Nickerson • Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen: Delicious, Nourishing Food for Lifelong Health and Well-Being • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

With in-depth profiles of favorite culinary herbs such as dill, sage, basil, and mint, Nickerson offers fascinating insights into the healing properties of each herb and then shares 110 original recipes for scrumptious snacks, entrées, drinks, and desserts that are specially designed to meet the body’s needs for comfort, nourishment, energy, and support through seasonal changes.

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Sun. July 30 • Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff • Other Avenues Are Possible: Legacy of the People's Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

Other Avenues Are Possible offers a vivid account of the dramatic rise and fall of the San Francisco People's Food System of the 1970s. Weaving new interviews, historical research, and the author's personal story as a longstanding co-op member, the book captures the excitement of a growing radical social movement along with the struggles, heartbreaking defeats, and eventual resurgence of today's thriving network of Bay Area cooperatives, the greatest concentration of co-ops anywhere in the country.

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Tues. Aug. 1 • Daniel Patterson & Mandy Aftel • The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food • Moderated by Harold McGee. 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Michelin two-star chef Daniel Patterson and celebrated natural perfumer Mandy Aftel are experts at orchestrating ingredients. Yet in a world awash in cooking shows and food blogs, they noticed, home cooks get little guidance in the art of flavor. In this trailblazing guide, they share the secrets to making the most of your ingredients via an indispensable set of tools and principles.

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Sat. Aug. 5 • A Party to Celebrate the Life of Flo Braker • 3-5 p.m. FREE

Flo Braker was among the most prominent American bakers of the last 50 years. Her sudden death last month at the age of 78 left many who knew her and her work bereft. I thought it would be nice to put on a celebration of her wonderful spirit, and to ask folks to bring their favorite Flo desserts for all to share. I'll also have many of her personal book collection for sale, as well as some of her treasured chocolate moulds, so come raise a glass to Flo with us, see the books that inspired her, and taste her sweet recipes.

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Sun. Aug. 20 • Deepa Thomas • Deepa's Secrets: Slow Carb New Indian Cuisine • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

Part cookbook and memoir, Deepa’s Secrets introduces breakthrough slow carb and gut-healing recipes that are simple and nutrient-packed, without sacrificing its rich South Asian flavors. On a mission to demystify and make healthy an “exotic” cuisine, Deepa shares shortcuts and techniques that will make "New Indian" everyday fare. Bold and intimate, Deepa’s Secrets will undoubtedly change your cooking, and quite possibly your life.

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Wed. Aug. 30 • Michael W. Twitty • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race and appropriation. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.

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Omnivore Books on Food • 3885a Cesar Chavez Street • San Francisco, CA 94131
415.282.4712 • Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm