January’s favourites: 5 cheer-myself-up foods and drinks

Time, whatever happens it passes and doesn’t care if you’re late, you can call it bastard, but in the meantime it’s gone already.” says my rough translations of a song from the famous Italian songwriter Lorenzo Jovanotti. Time flies, it ridiculously does, and while I’m trying to figure out the important changes that are occurring in my life at moment, I suddenly find myself realising that an entire month is gone since my last post. It’s been stressful so far, considering everything is going on with my family, so keeping my 2015 resolution to stay positive has been likewise difficult, but I like to think I’m stronger than that, therefore fingers crossed because I don’t want to snap.

What I really like about myself, together with few other personal characteristics, is that my eating habits are not affected at all from the various everyday life circumstances. Even in the darkest of my days I never thought for one second to skip meals, because food is extremely important for me and if I don’t eat, neither my body nor my mood would cooperate to brighten the atmosphere.

During this month I kept myself up with these fabulous foods and drinks that I’d like to share with you guys. Who knows, if they worked for me they could do the same for you.

Almond milk. Ok it’s not technically milk, but more of a drink that resembles milk. Lately I’m having problems with regular English milk (yes, as weird as it sounds, the one I have in Italy is totally fine) so I thought giving almond milk a go, after I found out the soy one and I don’t really get along. I like the toasted flavour that matches my Illy coffee blend, but still, it’s not milk. That’s what, sometimes this January, has led me directly to point n.2.

Credits: Michael Kwan

Matcha latte. The Japanese famous bitter green tea powder exceptionally  combined with warm frothy milk by the skilful Timberyard baristas. A comforting treat which takes me back to the friendly atmosphere of Tokyo’s cafés.

Fresh mango with full fat greek yogurt and desiccated coconut. Ok this breakfast/afternoon snack came up by throwing in a bowl some stuff I had in the fridge, together with that desiccated coconut that was sitting in my pantry for too long. Thick rich yogurt for the creamy texture, coconut adds crunch and mango for a tropical sweet touch.

Talking about ‘Nduja here.

‘Nduja. The Calabrian spreadable spicy salami you can enjoy on your bruschetta or to revive your pasta sauce, or even better, you can melt it on your pizza to give that fiery Southern Italy kick. I also use to add it to soups, because it completely enhances the overall flavour.

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My last visit at Tonkotsu East.

Tsukemen: it was love at first bite when the waitress at Rokurinsha, Tokyo, brought me a big bowl of these thick noodles to dip in their rich pork broth. I never had the chance to eat them since that moment, almost three years ago. However London is always full of wonders, so when I found out that Tonkotsu East was serving tsukemen I had no choice but go trying them. What a joy it was! Perfect homemade noodles with the right porous texture that allows to absorb the broth. I won’t disclose any more details guys, as I’m preparing a review with an another article about my personal ranking of ramen bars in London.

So these are my January’s favourite foods and drinks, but I’m always looking for something new to cheer myself up with, so I can’t wait to hear about your suggestions.

Let me know, guys!

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Sunday Brunch at Lantana Shoreditch: my review.

It happens every Sunday. I roll out of bed with semi closed eyes uttering weird sounds and wander in the house before realising how late it is and regretting those two hours I overslept, because the bed couldn’t let me go. The routine continues like this: usually after drinking some coffee in slow motion, I call my mum to catch up with the latest family gossip, but every time I end up getting scolded. Why? Simple, because it’s almost lunchtime and I preferred sleeping rather than waking up and do the preps for Sunday sauce, as every good Italian woman should do according to my mother’s and gran’s thought. At this point I have two options: 1) Lie and tell her that the sauce is on the stove simmering since 7 am and if I am convincing enough I also can find a quick excuse for my sleepy voice. Unfortunately I am such a bad liar, so I go straight to number 2. 2)Tell her I’m going to have brunch.

Her reply is always immediate: “Why? You’re not American.” Then it becomes melodramatic: “Hearing you’re losing your national identity makes me so sad.” Seriously, mum? I should probably take her to brunch next time she visits to try to change her mind.

After a quick search, G. and I decided for Lantana in Shoreditch, a trendy Aussie style café renowned for their excellent coffee blend and their signature drink, the flat white. I had already tried their coffee and cakes at their original location in Fitzrovia during my MA year at SOAS, and I kept going back at the time just to reward myself with quality products after classes, exams, you name it. This time it was all about brunch.

We arrived around 12:15 and we joined the long queue, because the café was packed with customers. Good sign.

The place has nice aged wood interiors without frills, in line with the trendy simple but absolutely vintage style, which is common to many independent coffee shops in London. Not really bright I would say, as the room can only benefit from two windows, so in rainy days like yesterday, the artificial light becomes necessary even at midday.

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The very kind waitress asked us if it was ok to wait 20 minutes, and of course we were more than happy to do it, but 20 minutes soon became 40 when we finally got seated. Well, it can happen when the kitchen is particularly busy and orders keep piling up, right?

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Soon another waiter came to our table and when I was about to order, he informed us that the food would have taken another 15 minutes. Fair, our order needs to be cooked and plated. Plus, what could have we possibly done after queuing 40 minutes to get a table, stand up and walk away?

Too bad that 15 minutes became 30. At this point I was very hungry and, honestly, annoyed, but our food finally came.

Smashed avocado and streaky bacon on sourdough toast with a poached egg and rocket (£7.5) for me and slow braised beans with ham hock served on corn bread with grilled chorizo, a poached egg and spinach for G (£8.5).

Well, I have to say that the kitchen staff made up for the wait with their flavourful dishes.

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A matter of perspective: the portion was bigger than it looks here.

My choice celebrated the always winning union between bacon and eggs, with a fresh note added by a creamy mellow avocado and the final bitter touch given of rocket to complete the dish. Nice, without any doubt. However, I would have seasoned the avocado with some pepper, smoked paprika and sumac just give it a spicy kick.

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Same goes for G.’s choice.

G’s order as well had a nice harmony in the combination of ingredients. In fact, the hearty beans braised in tomato sauce and ham hock gave respectively acidity and texture to contrast with the distinctive sapidity of chorizo and extremely peppery corn bread.

I give Lantana 7.5 that could have been easily transformed in a higher score, but the long waiting at the entrance and then at table was a significant source of influence. I perfectly understand that Brunch can be a busy time, but more communication and coordination of the staff could significantly improve the customers’ experience.

Lantana Shoreditch, Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard ,55 City Rd. EC1Y1HQ