My return, and friends in London
Christmas lights on Oxford Street, London, the first night they were lit, 9 Nov.
I'm finally back down here in Melbourne, and to be completely honest about it, a bit bummed out about that. After 2 months of travelling through beautiful cities with friends, eating good food and doing whatever you want when you want, it's certainly a sharp shock to come back to reality! I came back a few days ago, but it took a while to even consider turning on the computer (with the knowledge there'd be 8 weeks worth of emails waiting) and I haven't much felt like blogging!
I had plans to update when I was over there, but after 2 weeks had passed and I was having so much fun, sitting down at a computer was the last thing on my mind! That feeling continued for the whole trip; the longest I've been away from a PC since I was a child.
Needless to say, it was a fabulous trip and I can't wait to return. It was difficult to say goodbye to the choir after nearly 4 weeks together in Italy, Switzerland and England, but spending time on my own around the Czech Republic and Germany was just as wonderful. As long as you always have a book in your bag for a dining companion, travelling on your own is no problem! Thank you Michael Palin for many memorable dining experiences...
After our concert in London I caught up with Johanna, from The Passionate Cook, and Jeanne from Cooksister, who I was thrilled to find in the audience. Really, when you're over the other side of the world, it makes it so special to recognise somebody in the crowd. I had already met Johanna after my last trip to Europe in 2004, and actually stayed with her parents in Linz for a few nights, but I'd not met Jeanne before; we had a lot to talk about! We went out for dinner that night to a new pizza place, which I would write about, except that Jeanne has already put up a great post about our experience, including a photo of the three of us, post-pizza. Her photos are better than mine, anyway! (My flash died right in the middle of the tour of the Cailler chocolate factory in Switzerland 2 weeks earlier - aaargghgh!)
I caught up with Johanna and Jeanne again last week, when I was back in London for a few days, and we went to a wild mushroom and truffle tasting evening at Harvey Nichols. Very swish! An interesting evening; we sat around the 5th floor food hall, and heard demonstrations from a wild mushroom distributor (most going to Harvey Nicks come from Scotland) and the representative from L'Aquila, a truffle and truffle goods distributor. Both offered tastes of their products. Mr Mushroom Man cooked up a pile of wild mushrooms with butter and garlic and served them on crisped Italian flatbread brushed with truffle oil. These were excellent. If Mrs Truffle women was hoping to lure us into parting with our cash to purchase her truffle goods, she didn't do a very good job. A very sad tray of canapes was delivered to each table, and none of them did justice to the truffles. It's telling that none of us bothered to get our cameras out. Truffle-infused polenta shapes were cold and unseasoned, scrambled egg tarts with chopped truffle were bland and croutons with truffle paste had been prepared hours before and were dry and cold. Hmmmm. The cherry tomato garnish was great.... However, we did get to handle a box of white summer truffles (about $1000 worth, I'd say), learnt about the different sorts of truffle and their varied flavours, and tasted a few shavings of a black winter and summer varieties. Accompanying the wild mushrooms was a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005 (still a bit light) and with the truffles, an Italian Barbera.
The highlight of the evening was the goodie bag we got to take home at the end, with a bottle of Harvey Nicks truffle-infused olive oil, a jar of Harvey Nicks wild mushroom sauce (looking forward to playing with that), a bottle of pomegranate and blueberry juice, which I drank before getting on the plane to Australia and a packet of very unusual Tyrells apple chips from Herefordshire. I'm munching on these at the moment; they have the texture of potato crisps, but are sweet and dusted with cinnamon. I'm definitely a fan. They would have been a good garnish for something if I hadn't just gobbled up my packet then...
Christmas goods were out in force around London, so I also picked up a tin of Harvey Nicks Christmas blend tea, which smells like festive pot-pourri, and a box of the best crumbly fudge in the world, which I'd previously discovered at the Borough Market. More on that to come...
Think it's time for another jet-lag nap now....!