Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'll Eel Eventually

Okay, I admit it, I chickened out. I went on my own to find M. Manze, one of the classic Pie & Mash shops that serves meat pies, mashed potatoes, and jellied eels. If you aren't familiar with the jellied eel, here is a description from Wikipedia. I was primed and ready for my first jellied eel experience.

And then I saw them.

The order of eels of the guy in front of me in line jiggled ominously. This was no unagi. This was bony fishy bits in Jello. I just couldn't do it. So I ordered two pies and one mash and a large sarsaparilla, and sheepishly took my tray back to a table to eat my sadly eel-free lunch.

Let's start with the sarsaparilla - I have no idea what it was supposed to taste like, but it resembled flat, brown, very weakly flavored cream soda. Super artificial and a delightful lukewarm, and overall not so great. The mash was quite good, and "1 mash" was about two huge helpings, but then I tend to like all mashed potatoes, even those reconstituted ones. The pies looked great, kind of like a Hostess fruit pie in shape, but once tasted were true to the English food stereotype, i.e., bland and filled with who-knows-what part of a cow. The "liquor," a mild light-green, nominally parsley flavored gravy-like substance, did very little to help matters. Two pies was waaaaaay too much, especially since they didn't taste that great. I'm sure locals love this place, and the ambiance was truly wonderful. It felt like eating in a train station cafeteria 100 years ago. So, in retrospect, if the eel was as good as everything else, maybe I'm lucky I passed. Too bad, I had high hopes for this place.

Just in case you think I was wrong to not try them, here is a nice photo for you.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Great Expectations

At this point, since we have now graced you with a picture of mildew and a picture of lemon-scented liquid soap, I imagine people are probably expecting some photos of, say, interesting things. Perhaps a slightly artsy shot of a tube station that draws your eye to infinity. Or maybe a snapshot of a pub that purports to be the oldest pub in England (although it burnt down in the 1800s and was rebuilt, hence the controversy). Or on a more personal level, a nice shot of our new front door.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way for a while, back to the whole root beer issue. I tried the Bundaberg's Australian Root Beer, and, while it is way too sweet (even for my American palate), it is a very respectable root beer. The flavor is a tad mild and heavy on the sarsaparilla with very little in the way of birch notes or wintergreen like we might expect in American-style root beer. Yes, I did just say "birch notes" - sue me in the world court. One major problem is the price - about 4 pounds for 4 bottles, so about $2 a bottle. Not super expensive, but getting there. On other soda-related notes, the Dr. Pepper here is crazy delicious - much like Mexican Dr. Pepper. Hooray for real sugar! While looking for other root beers at Sainsbury's (no luck) I did find Sainsbury's "Dandelion and Burdock Soda," which they only seem to sell in Diet (yuck). I suppose that counts as root beer since it seems to be made from roots, but I have scarcely any hope that it might actually taste good, even with vanilla ice cream floating in it. You may have to wait a long time for me to review that one.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fun in Wapping

Although we're still jet lagged, we had fun exploring the area today. As Andy said, our flat is in East London, in a borough called Wapping - it's pronounced 'whopping', like the candy 'Whoppers' (yum). The south end of Wapping is right above the Thames River, so we spent most of our time in that area. We saw a lot of cool converted warehouses, and walked by some neat local shops along a street called Wapping Wall (including a tiny butcher store with very fresh looking meats in the window and a shop so small that only two customers could fit in at once). There were a lot more trees and parks than I'd expected, so the area was quite pretty. Although it's early to tell, we think we might like to live somewhere around there.

Upon returning home and washing the dishes, I couldn't help but take a picture of the dish soap we found in the kitchen called 'Fairy Lemon Twister' with a drawing of a diapered baby on the label (click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged version). It's actually a Procter & Gamble product - I knew they were famous for their creative branding in the U.S., but I didn't realize it stretched across the world! I wonder what focus group convinced them to go with the diapered baby theme?

Anyway, we're happy to be here and excited about the next few years in London, even though we already we miss home and family. We streamed the San Francisco radio station KFOG onto Andy's computer yesterday, and it felt like a little piece of the bay area was with us. But I think we will have a great time here. Before I left home last week I heard someone give the advice: 'When making a big life change, anticipate joy, don't anticipate fear' - so that's exactly what I'm trying to do. I also can't wait to find a permanent flat that feels like home so we can really settle in.

On a final note, I just told Andy the title of this entry, and he said 'make sure to tell everyone we had a whopping good time today'. Ah, the puns never end - they just travel overseas and continue as they always have. There's a little piece of home for you!

We've Arrived, Now Where's the Root Beer?

Apparently today is the 8th birthday of Blogger. In internet terms, 8 is rather ancient; yet somehow I think I only heard the word "blog" within the last two years. And I thought I was on top of things. So here we are, on the 8th birthday of the blog, starting our very first one.

Those of you who know us have probably surmised that we have moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to London. Those of you who don't know us have probably surmised that this blog is going to be fairly boring because you have no idea who we are (and may even be boring to those of you that do know us, but hopefully not yet). We arrived yesterday fairly jet-lagged and confused, but managed to find our temporary flat on the East End which we will use to start looking for more permanent housing. The flat is very nice, if a tad mildewy - this is what you get for carpeting bathrooms, drip-drying laundry indoors (also over carpet), and living in a permanently damp environment (with carpet). Apart from the mildew, and the horrifying fact that the cable seems to not be working [breathe, Andy, it will be okay], the flat is spacious and light with a nice kitchen. In fact it is way too big for our current needs, but no complaints here.

Now, about the title, we really do want to find some root beer while we are here in the UK. Not surprisingly, finding root beer in the UK has been attempted before (see, e.g., http://www.root-beer.co.uk/ ). While it seems that finding something called "root beer" is rather easy (there is even a local brand called Carter's), nothing here remotely resembles what Americans think of as root beer. Plus, Carter's, like nearly all other UK sodas, has artificial sweeteners in it, which are simply not allowed in my root beer. Waitrose, a local posh grocery, has a root beer made by the Australian company Bundaberg - I'll check this out and review it later.

Okay, we'll post some pictures soon. For now, I'm starving and we have some eggs and back bacon that need cooking.