Monday, July 21, 2008

Raving about truffles...

Chocolate truffles aren't as rare a treat as they used to be. Available in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors these days, the likes of Godiva or Lindt continue to tempt us with their imaginative and delicious creations. The most popular alcohol or liquor-laced truffles appear to be of the champagne or Grand-Marnier variety. However, on my last visit to the Harrods chocolate/candy section in London this June, I became totally hooked on a special kind of 'Port and Cranberry' truffles.

These devilishly creamy dark chocolate truffles are created by none other than one of London's legendary chocolatiers, Charbonnel et Walker. Packed in a ruby red box of 6, this will cost you around $20, but if you're lucky, you may be there during sale time and get it for $10 as I did. These are pricey pieces of candy, but taste one, and you'll know why. Bat your eyelids, or smile that smile at the serving attendant, and you might even get a free taste!

There is a Charbonnel et Walker store in Bond Street in London, but visit the Harrods Food Hall if you can, and find your way to the candy section. It is mesmerizing and tantalizing. Apart from C et W, you will be introduced to some of the world's finest brands of candy, amidst excited cacophony, luring aromas, and luxurious ambiance.

I just went to their website, and it turns out that you can get C et W candy in San Francisco and Palo Alto. How cool is that! They even have a Cafe Charbonnel in NYC! As evident from the picture, I am down to my last one. Where is that Palo Alto store again?

Charbonnel et Walker

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cameron's Restaurant and Inn, California

Just as were done meandering through lovely La Honda in the convertible and were ready to hit San Francisco, I yelled 'Stop' as I spotted an Union Jack in the most unlikely of places.

Cameron's Restaurant and Inn is situated on Cabrillo Hwy in Half Moon Bay, a section of the famed and stunningly picturesque Route 1 in California. It's a very English-looking establishment from the outside, and extremely cliched in the inside. Reminded me of a rather touristy pub right outside of where the 'hop on hop off' buses stopped in London. Nevertheless, I loved it because it reminded me of home. It was warm, colorful and inviting.

As you park your car, you notice a number of artifacts aiming to create that English feel. A red telephone box, a 'Post Office' sign, an original but a very beaten up black cab, and a model of a double decker bus. It's all good. The presence of all these very British symbols under the Californian sun is a very surreal experience.

The service is fast and friendly. There was a large team of bicyclists from Stanford University, enjoying British brew on their break, but we didn't have to wait very long. We ordered Newcastle Brown Ale and Boddington's (a bitter from Manchester). The menu serves up the favorites you expect, such as fish and chips, or bangers and mash (traditional sausages and mashed potato), but also typical American fare.

Spend your time looking at all the objects around the pub - kitschy but interesting, in the best sense of the word. Old pictures, faded and framed newspaper articles, themed mugs are all part of the charm. There is also a little shop from which you can buy English things such as PG Tips tea, Sharwoods Indian Curry paste, or Heinz Beans. Not to mention British candy, or chocolates, as we call them in Blighty. It was just the other day that I was missing Maltesers so much. Little light fluffy malt balls covered in delectable milk chocolate. I was overjoyed.

Try out this little corner of England in the middle of Half Moon Bay, California. I am sure there are many such British-inspired or owned establishments in California; perhaps you could point me towards them?


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Congratulations Spain!

Congratulations to Spain, the well deserving underdogs, for clinching the championship title for Euro 2008. Not a spectacular match by any measure, but they were clearly the better side compared to lackluster Germany.

As one championship ends, another is still underway in Southfields, London. Yes, I'm talking about Wimbledon. If I were still in London, you would find me at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at least one day over the two weeks. What could be better than savoring a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream while sitting at one of the courts on a lazy sunny day?

Are you or have you been to Wimbledon? Recommend any of the eateries in the area?

Enjoy the tennis.