Saturday, June 6, 2015

The end of May

Hello again!

I'll start off this post with a little about my and Ben's anniversary. We decided to keep it pretty low key, since we have exciting things like an international move and a wedding to focus our attention on. WHICH, I NEED TO TELL YOU SO I WILL INTERRUPT MYSELF- our petition for the fiancée visa has been accepted! Now, back to my story... However, as we realized this was our last May anniversary (it'll be replaced by our marriage anniversary), we decided to go to a fancy dinner. We have both been meaning to try Coal Shed, a steak restaurant that has had raving reviews, so headed there. We ordered a medium rare sharing steak (porterhouse), green beans, and garlic mushrooms with chimichurri on the side. And honestly, we were both extremely underwhelmed. HOW can Coal Shed have a distinction of being one of the best restaurants of Brighton? How can anyone think its in contention with Gingerman, 64 degrees, Terre a Terre, or Food for Friends? The only thing I can think of, is that Coal Shed is the only real "steak house" in Brighton. And steak house= expensive and fancy. But I've had MUCH better steak at MANY different places. In fact, I've have much better steak at non-gourmet restaurants. Coal Shed definitely feel flat by meat standards, and the sides and sauces certainly didn't hold their own either. I can/ have made better tasting green beans, mushrooms, and chimichurri. Maybe the food was just off that night? But the steak wasn't even butchered well (which they do in house) and the waiter kept telling us the cheapest option for everything, even trying to persuade us away from items we wanted because they weren't the least expensive option. And I thought that was extremely condescending and rude. So I really don't get it, what's the big deal about Coal Shed?

Soon after our anniversary is my birthday. Since I have time off, I decided to go for a long walk. From Hove, I walked to the Undercliff Pass. Absolutely beautiful. Once I hit Ovingdean, I walked the Overcliff Pass until I hit Rottingdean, where I continued to Kipling Gardens. So tranquil, and genuinely exciting to be in an area that inspired some of Rudyard Kipling's writings. Before heading back to Brighton, I went to Beacon Hill Nature Preserve and enjoyed fabulous views across East Sussex and the Channel. All in all, the walk was over 16 km. And it was glorious.

We finished off my birthday celebration by enjoying some Cava and tapas at Bellota. The plan was to eat at home, since we had gone out for our anniversary and my real birthday celebration was being postponed until Saturday. But laziness and excuses took over our better judgement, and I'm glad it did! Now, Bellota is not the best Spanish restaurant in Brighton. Casa Don Carlos and Ole Ole are better. But Bellota is still pretty good and I would definitely go back. There were two big bonuses for me- 1) Cava Sangria. 2) SO many wheat-free options; I could feast like a queen without my belly expanding to three times its size!

When the weekend rolled around, Ben and I were off to London. Our first stop was Borough Market, with a Day of Gluttony-inspired adventure. For those who don't know, Day of Gluttony is a show (youtube it) focused on two guys eating at 24 different establishments within one day of their chosen city. Ben and I of course were not aiming for 24 different foods, but we were interested in trying as many things as we could.
 We started with some cold brew coffee from goodbeans. I liked it; the process removed a lot of the unpleasant bitterness that comes along with tannin drinks.
Breakfast continued with a blueberry cream filled donut from Bread Ahead. My belly exploded from all of the wheat, but it was soooo worth it.
The adventure continued into lunch, where I got Slouvaki over kohlrabi salad with tzatziki from The New Kid. It was lovely, and now I want to make my own kohlrabi salad.

We then got juice, which Ben claimed will "help refresh us after all of that food". I'm not convinced, but acai juice is delicious! After our juice refreshment, we headed to Greenwich with enough time to hit Greenwich market before Avenue Q started at Greenwich Theatre.

So I grabbed my lunch of saag aloo and rogan josh and then we headed off to the theater! I didn't know much about Avenue Q, except that there were puppets and I had heard a few of the songs. And I'm SO happy that I went in naive, I'm convinced that it made the jokes extra hilarious and the plot particularly shocking. It was crude and honest, forming an absolutely hilarious combination of what real life is. I think everyone should watch this, especially for those in their early 20s.

That night, we headed to a friends house to watch Eurovision. Now, what I write here will not do the program justice, I'm sure. I've only watched Eurovision once (although to be fair, was fully immersed in it due to being surrounded by Europeans, Euro-themed food, and Eurovision costumes), and I don't think I can ever truly appreciate what this program means to Europeans. From what I've assessed, the UK takes it as a big joke and other European countries take it seriously... It is a song contest between European countries and is well loved for its quirkiness. This years contest? Pretty boring, in my opinion. I was expecting weirdness, but only saw sub-par singing. There's tons of that crap already on tv, so I'm a little confused. But anyway. The voting also tends to be a bit political, with each country involved giving away points to the competing countries. Russia almost won, even thought they TOTALLY didn't deserve to, and I'm convinced its because of the current political unrest. Boo! But in the end, Sweden won and I thought they deserved the recognition.
Most importantly though, was the costume Ben and I wore. We tried to copy Moldova 2006's entry:

and just ended up with REALLY tall, wonky black hats.
But it was glorious, all the same.

The next day, we relaxed a bit before seeing a bunch of art throughout the city, ending with an art installation on the beach, a part of Brighton Festival called "And now, fleeting". It was very cool, although strange. It was a light installation with some interpretive dancers. Best part, they launched fireworks over the Channel.

One of our favorite things to do is go for long walks in the local area. Is why Ben chose to propose while on a hike in the South Downs. Following the Saturday fun and the Sunday culture, we decided to end our 3 day weekend by getting back to basics and going for a nice walk near Glynde, around Mt. Caburn. It was great, and I'd highly recommend it.

The next exciting bit of news I have to share with you all is that my first lead-author paper has finally been made available online. Check it out!!! The article is open access, so anyone will be able to look at the paper. The media has also picked it up, which is really exciting! Check out the review from Alzheimer's News Today!

Finally, since our days in the UK are quickly dwindling, Ben and I have decided to take a few long weekends to explore places we have yet been to.
First stop, Eden Project.

Next, The Lizard.

St Michael's Mount (including proper Cornish cream teas and Cornish pasties!)

The next day, we started with Sennen Cove to Land's End.

Next, Gwithian walks (including epic Fish and Chips and Cornish ice cream!)

On our final day, we went to Tintagel Castle (the supposed birth place of King Arthur).

Bodmin Moors (including Dozmary Pool, were the Lady of the Lake took Excalibur).

Things I've loved the past few weeks:

Birds and Bees. This American Life. A fantastic look at society's trifecta of taboos, and most importantly sheds light on why these topics actually need to be discussed.

Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. THIS BOOK THOUGH. If you haven't read it, go read it now. If you read it for school and are now out of school, go read it now. This book is possibly the most important piece of fiction that I have ever read. This book makes you think, focusing on a warped "utopian" future. Its the world we are all desperate to live in, but also horrific. What are you willing to sacrifice for utopia? Brave New World makes you actually think about it.

Wild. Cheryl Strayed. I loved this. It is a quick read and although it definitely makes you think about life's hardships, they are easy to grasp and didn't force me to think too deeply. It has also inspired me to realistically consider the Camino Santiago del Compostela pilgrimage. I've always been interested in the idea of taking this pilgrimage from France, through the Pyrenees, and into the Basque region of Spain. But now I'm more convinced that its something I should realistically look into doing.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Burgers. The recipe called for a homemade apricot chutney and ohhh buddy was it nice. Our stint to Borough Market and this chuntey has really inspired us to make from scratch more condiment-type foods. Chutneys, pickles, dips, pates... All add A LOT to a meal (I've decided it is what separates an amazing chef from a fine-dining menu) and are easy/ delicious.
Anzac Biscuits. I actually didn't make these, but I thoroughly enjoyed them so thought I'd share.
Sweet Chili Salmon. Ah, lovely. Mae Ploy Sweet Chili sauce is one of our favorite condiments, so of course allowing it to be the star of our meal ended up being a great choice. We served it with harissa-spiced green beans. Yum!

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