London - Ottolenghi
So, Ottolenghi, if you read many food blogs or food publications you've surely heard the name. Last year Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook, Jerusalem, was on just about everyone's 2012 best of list, just as his previous cookbook, Plenty, was in 2011. Plenty is full of gorgeously photographed, Middle Eastern inspired recipes served at the Ottolenghi shops scattered around the posher areas of London. They're mostly take-away, but there's also the fancier Nopi, a sit down restaurant that requires a reservation or a super long wait in line.
Ottolenghi's windows are lined with beautiful, drool-worthy desserts. It was the best kind of trial deciding which treats to take with us. How we each picked just one apiece, I couldn't tell you. Inside it's pretty tight, chock full of giant white platters of prepared meats and fish, huge bowls of colorful, uber-fresh salads. After loading up on food we found ourselves right in front of the big Whole Foods on Kensington High Street. I picked up a chewy pretzel roll, and both Katy and I bought fancy Fentimans sodas. If we hadn't already spent loads of money at Ottolenghi I'm sure we would have gone crazy at Whole Foods.
We had a bit of trouble finding the Kensington location of Ottolenghi. Our map of the area wasn't narrow enough to include all of the little alleys and winding streets. We wandered around for a good 30-45 minutes before stumbling upon it tucked away on a little branch of Holland Steet. Luckily the neighborhood is very nice and just a few blocks away from our eventual destination - Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
It was a pretty day, but crazy windy and just cold enough to numb our fork-clutching fingertips. Katy made the prettiest to go box of food. A moist chicken leg, salad of herbed couscous with pomegranate and roasted cauliflower, and batons of butternut squash coated in garlicky yogurt, toasted sunflower seeds, and cilantro.
After the conversion from pounds, Ottolenghi was certainly not cheap. Everything is spooned up then weighed to determine the cost. My little box of food was quite heavy, (aka quite expensive) packed with roasted broccoli, more of those tender butternut squash pieces (I need to recreate this at home, minus the cilantro,) and thick rounds of grilled eggplant with leafy greens. Everything was good. So good in fact that Katy has been cooking from Plenty nonstop since we've been back in the states. I should really follow her lead.
For dessert I picked the buttery plum cake below. It's definitely in competition for the best thing I ate in London. The cake itself was dense and buttery, crispy on the edges and studded with gem-like juicy plums. Katy chose one of the lemon pistachio polenta cakes pictured up top. It was definitely the lighter option. After thoroughly stuffing our faces it was time for a chilly stroll through the park. It was just what we needed despite too many tourists feeding overly aggressive pigeons.