A Day of Jamie

I need to backtrack a bit to share an amazing day I had while I was in London for the holidays. As I have mentioned before, my husband is not the greatest “gifter.” In the past I have either bought my own Christmas present, which was completely fine since I got exactly what was on my list. Or we exchanged no gifts at all, which is fine as well, since I usually have to shop for about 20 people.

Well, I am now eating my words because he got me the most amazing Christmas present … a reservation at Jamie’s Italian on Threadneedle Street.  But that is not all, he pre-arranged for his brother and sister-in-law to babysit our son all day!  We spend every Christmas in the UK visiting Clive’s family on the outskirts of London and for some reason our son has now turned into a demon child every time we try to take him up into the city.  The worst was trying to pick out gifts at Fortnum and Mason’s this past year and having to carry him out kicking and screaming over my shoulder.

My angel – pre tantrum and post tantrum

The prospect of spending the day in London, just the two of us, like we used to when we lived here right after we first got married, was heaven.  Especially since the day would end with what I knew would be a delicious meal.

With Ollie on the way to a farm/petting zoo with Uncle Paul and Auntie Di, we decided to take full advantage of the day and go up to Notting Hill, which is a must visit when we are in town.  The fact that Jamie’s Recipease sits at the entrance into Notting Hill was just a wonderful coincidence.  Certainly I didn’t plan to drag my husband around for an entire day of Jamie Oliver!

Recipease is Jamie’s new food and kitchen shop where you can also take cooking lessons.  I was only planning on browsing, maybe pick up a few of his magazines that I can’t get back in the States, but we had to eat lunch somewhere so it might as well be here.  We sat upstairs at the high table along the window, drinking cappuccinos and watching the double decker buses and black cabs go by.


Clive ordered the mulligatawny soup. I had a blue cheese, thyme and caramelized onion flat bread to start and then the Vietnamese spring rolls. Everything was fresh, delicious and exceptional.  Even my non-foodie husband (“food is fuel”) was blown away by the complex flavors of the soup.  And I have to say, it was all so reasonably priced.

Spring Rolls & Flatbread

After lunch we wandered up Portobello Road and bought an antique toy tractor for Ollie at my favorite shop, Chloe Alberry, went to my favorite spice shop which unfortunately was closed and stopped for a pint at one of the local pubs.

Portobello Road

Then it was off to the city to Jamie’s Italian!  We had an early reservation and the restaurant was fairly empty but by the time we left it had filled up.  The service was great – nice, friendly and attentive.  But the food, oh the food, it really was out of this world.  I knew it would be good but there are about 30 Jamie’s Italian outposts around the UK so you never know (even though I have complete faith in Jamie).  There is nothing better than having your high expectations exceeded.  Blown out of the water, really.

Threadneedle Street

Jamie's Italian Menu

We started with the Crostini Selection, which was presented on a long thin wooden plank.  The first one we tried was the shaved raw zucchini with just a hint of mint and lemon.  Delicious.  The rest were equally amazing – beetroot puree, squash and ricotta, smoked salmon – but our favorite was a very simple roasted Mediterranean veggie.  I have no idea how he packed so much flavor onto each of those crostinis.

Crostini Selection

For our mains, we decided to split the Truffle Tagliolini and the Mushroom Cilindretti.  We were very glad we did this because eating a whole dish of the Truffle Tagliolini would have been too rich for us.  But the flavors, all that butter and shaved truffles was a really special treat.  Both of us agreed that the mushroom dish was our favorite.  It was wild mushroom stuffed “parcels” with a tomato & porcini sauce.  The parcels were long rectangular fresh pasta filled with a mushroom mixture, and the sauce was simple but divine.  For our sides, I ordered a rocket and parmesan salad (always a favorite for me) and Clive ordered the roast pumpkin, beets and squash.  Again the flavors were so intense.

Our dinner

We finished with a simple mango sorbet. On our way out, we stopped to talk with the manager and give him our compliments.  He was warm and enthusiastic.  It is so nice to dine at a place where you can see that the staff genuinely enjoy working there.

We then took a stroll through the city, across the Millennium Bridge and along the South Bank.  I love this walk which we did so many times before while living here.  The night wasn’t too cold, just crisp enough, and there were people strolling and buskers playing music.  We slowly made our way back to Waterloo to take the train back to Surbiton.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day and two perfect meals.  Thanks honey!

Satiated in Seattle

We didn’t get quite as early a start from Olympia as we had hoped to, but after a nice big cup of coffee and some delicious smoked salmon and rustic bread, we were on the road to Seattle.

 We stayed with our good friends, Pete and Lisa, and their beautiful daughters, Sadie and Madeline, in West Seattle. Ollie loves staying with them since he has two playmates along with an entire basement full of new and different toys. We arrived Saturday afternoon, tossed our luggage in, had a great lunch and then headed out to Carnation for Kim and Jim’s family wedding reception. It was an amazing night, and the food my family brought for the buffet is a blog in and of itself.

 The next day, Lisa and I headed out to pick up the seafood at Pete’s brother’s fish market, Wild Salmon Seafood Market, at Fisherman’s Terminal in Ballard. We bought a beautiful piece of Coho Salmon along with mounds of clams and big fresh scallops. The shop packed it all on ice for us since we didn’t have time to swing home and drop it off before Kim’s reading at the Elliot Bay Book Co. But we did have time for a margarita, chips and guacamole at a great Mexican restaurant in Capital Hill. The reading was incredible and it was so exciting to see Kim at Elliot Bay as an author not a bookseller.

 IMG_2213 IMG_9799

After the reading, a big crew headed back to Pete and Lisa’s for the feast. My mom and dad brought along my Aunt Janice and Aunt Claudia. Kim and Jim came over with Kim’s best friend Beth, her husband Kurtis, and their son West. As well, we were joined by Lisa’s parents and also our good friends, Dave and Shana, and their two girls, Annabelle and Molly.  Last year when we were up visiting, we had a big dinner at Pete and Lisa’s and all I can say is that meal was so delicious, so perfect, that is was going to be hard to top.

Wine was opened, beer was poured and we all divided up to bring out the appetizers, prep, cook, chat, watch the kids, drink and enjoy the beautiful October night. I feel I need to add a sidebar here to point out that I know “beautiful” and “October” and “night” don’t usually go together when discussing the Northwest, but we had exceptional weather our entire trip.

The men taking over the backyard

The men taking over the backyard

The first culinary event of the evening was watching Kurtis unpack his paella equipment and begin to prepare his signature dish. A beautiful golden rice was set to boil on one burner and specialty sausage was grilled on another.

As he continued to prep the rest of the ingredients, Pete placed that amazing piece of salmon on the barbecue.  With Pete, manning the grill (and the fridge keg), I think it is safe to say that Lisa took care of organizing everything else.

Then came a furious motion as the rest of the meal was prepared. There was Beth’s Caesar salad, Lisa’s mom’s fresh tomato and zucchini dish, clams boiled to perfection in a wine and butter broth, marinated grilled bacon-wrapped scallops, and Kurtis’ beautiful chicken and olive paella.



And then there was the bread: “Daveman’s bread,” as Pete refers to it. Dave decided a while back that he was going to learn how to bake bread. Now he didn’t just read a few recipes and try out a few loaves, he dived into the process with so much gusto that he actually cultivates his own yeast for the bread. How in the world do you even do that?? Well, regardless, his bread is amazing. Four beautiful loaves of sourdough and olive bread. Four! That meant there were going to be leftovers for the rest of our stay.

Oh – and I forgot to mention my Uncle Jim’s smoked salmon dip. He had made it for the reception and fortunately like every Fay, he made gallons of it so there was an entire container left that he sent home with me. This dip is divine, and as you might remember from my experience at Son of a Gun, smoked fish dips are my favorite these days … and my Uncle Jim’s is delicious. It’s made from salmon he caught and smoked himself!
When dinner was served we opened the Candor, from Hope Family Wineries. It is now a tradition that whenever we come up to Seattle to stay with Pete & Lisa, we send ahead the troops to pave the way – and by troops, I mean four bottles of Candor from our friend Joel’s winery in Paso Robles.

We piled our plates high and tucked in. What a feast! We ate until we thought we couldn’t take another bite and then somehow we all found the strength to carry on and eat more.


Pete had mocked Lisa and me for the amount of seafood we bought and it was all devoured. Every dish was wiped out. Barely a crumb left.

Then we sat back, happy and sated, enjoyed more Candor and nibbled on the gourmet chocolates that Shana brought.

Well, I didn’t think it was possible but we managed to outdo ourselves from the dinner last year.  Thank you Pete and Lisa for opening your home for an amazing meal with my friends and family – life doesn’t get any better.

The rest of the trip was relaxing and exactly what I wanted and needed. A day in Seattle having lunch at Ivars, walking along the waterfront and wandering Pike Place Market.

Seattle Collage

A meal out with Pete, Lisa, Kim, Jim, Beth and Kurtis and all the kids at a wonderful neighborhood restaurant, Angelina’s.  Then a day at Woodland Park so Ollie could see the lions, but not before lunch at Saigon Boat (I crave the vegan banh mi sandwiches they serve). As well, we enjoyed a deliciously decadent diner breakfast at the Chelan Cafe.


Goodbye Seattle – hopefully it won’t be long before we come again.  Watch out for the Candor, and you know we won’t be far behind!

Originally posted on serveitforth.blogspot.com

Olympia – It’s the good life… and a lot more

I spent the last week in Washington, my home state, and had the most amazing time. My husband, my son Ollie and I went up there for many reasons: the wedding reception my sister and her new husband organized for our family, my sister’s “Map of Lost Memories” book reading at her literary alma mater — Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Co. — and a reading and Q&A for Kim at my friends’ photography studio, The Steam Plant, in Olympia during the city’s big Art Walk. As well, we haven’t had a holiday since our trip to London last Christmas, so it was time to take a few days off work and relax.

We arrived at Sea-Tac on Thursday afternoon and headed down to Olympia to stay with our close friends, Cortney and Philip, and their youngest son Emmett.  


Fall colors speed by

Uh oh, our navigator fell asleep

Uh oh, our navigator fell asleep

They have a charming house right off downtown with a beautiful little garden and chickens freely roaming the yard with Ruby, the dog and their two cats, George and Koz (literally the fattest black cat in town). Ollie was in heaven. 

Pearl, Gertie, Rosie, Honey & Ginger(not exactly sure which one isn't in the picture)

Pearl, Gertie, Rosie, Honey & Ginger
(not exactly sure which one isn’t in the picture)

We spent our first full day there wandering the town and going to the Farmer’s Market. I love Olympia. I had a great conversation with a woman at the Blue Heron Bakery stall in the market about how wonderful it is that the food trend these days is organic, farm to table, local, fresh, etc. but how funny it is since that is the way everyone in Olympia has always shopped and eaten. I can attest to that truth since I spent some time living here right after college in the early ’90s. 

As a matter of fact, I would stop at Blue Heron Bakery on Mud Bay Road on my way into town to visit Cortney and Philip in their first charming house by downtown that sadly was (and still is) painted a bright yellow and red, a la McDonald’s. I would pick up whole wheat berry-filled croissants, and Cortney would provide coffee from the local roaster, Batdorf and Bronsons, for our many yard sales or just days spent hanging out and cooking and playing with Cortney and Philip’s firstborn, Austin. He was only a toddler back then, and this visit he wasn’t home because he has graduated from college and was off on a ski weekend with his friends. My how that makes a girl feel old!

Ollie enjoying his gluten free ginger cookie from Blue Heron Bakery.  His choice, however,no matter how many times I told him, I think he still thought it was a giant chocolate cookie

Ollie enjoying his gluten free ginger cookie from Blue Heron Bakery.
His choice, however, no matter how many times I told him,
I think he still thought it was a giant chocolate cookie

On Friday night Kim’s first event of the week was at Cortney’s photography studio, The Steam Plant, in downtown Olympia.  It is an amazing old brick building with beautiful light and so much character. 

IMG_2199 4x6

Ollie driving the vintage car before the space was set up for Kim’s reading

Cortney went all out, bringing in a local food truck, AllFed Up. Their “fromage a trois” sandwich (named by my clever brother-in-law Jim) was to die for. Philip picked up a keg from the local brewer, Fish Tale, and proceeds from the beer garden went to a local art outreach program, POSCCA. There was also a local musician, Terry Holder, playing throughout the night. 


Kim’s reading was excellent and Cortney did a fun and interesting Q&A, ending with her asking the 10 questions James Lipton always asks on Inside the Actors Studio.  My favorite response was to “What profession, other than your own would you like to attempt?”  “CIA agent” she replied.  She was devastated when she found out you have to be under 35 years old to apply.  Guess that option is out.  Orca books, a great local independent bookstore, kindly supplied the books and overall it was a smashing success!

IMG_9061 edit


Next stop Seattle … However, I know we will be back to Oly soon since my husband fell in love with this quirky, organic-oriented, farm-to-table, local-business-supporting town! 

 Originally posted on serveitforth.blogspot.com