'Snapshots from the UK' on Serious Eats

Snapshots from the UK: Brothers Toffee Apple Cider, a Caramel Apple-Flavored Beverage

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky] When I was young, I spent Halloween night bobbing for apples with my hands behind my back. I remember thinking how silly it was, when I could get a perfectly delicious apple coated in caramel neatly perched on a stick. And now even that seems barbaric when I can drink my caramel apples from a beer bottle. Brothers Toffee Apple Cider tastes of sweet, alcoholic, bubbling apple cider with melted caramel stirred up inside, described quite correctly by the company as tasting something like "cream soda." It was originally developed for Halloween, but was so popular the company now bottles it year-round. For an American away from America during the all-American season from Halloween to Thanksgiving, the... More

Snapshots from the UK: Rules, London's Oldest Restaurant

"It's a place where you feel like you should sit up straight but you're too weighed down by the meal to actually do so." Scilly Isles Lobster served cold with asparagus. [Photographs: Kerry Saretsky] After living in England for a year, I can attest that the country is as steeped in history as its tea is steeped in water. It’s also a place where, admittedly, I had a hard time eating happily. I love stews, fish, cheese, peas, and anything fried, so I couldn’t understand why the food and I never got along. But I was always on a quest for really excellent old English food and at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London, I finally found it. Smoked Highland... More

Snapshots from the UK: Pepsi Raw

"It tastes like you'd imagine Victorian drug store cola to taste." My idea of a natural soda usually involves an experiment in mixing seltzer water and fresh juice. You get to watch the mixture fizz and spit and change color, just like with an amateur chemistry set. So when I saw the "Natural Born Cola" Pepsi Raw (marketed in the U.S. as Pepsi Natural) in the cold drinks section at my local pharmacy here in England, I was intrigued by the slim-as-a-Red-Bull, dark-as-a-brown-M&M can. The ingredients listed are "sparkling water, cane sugar, apple extract, colourings: plain caramel, natural plant extracts including natural caffeine and kola nut extract, citric tartaric and lactic acids, (stabilizer) gum arabic, (thickener) xanthan gum."... More

Snapshots from the UK: Pizza Express's Leggera Pizzas

Some things are supposed to have a hole in the center. Like a bagel. Or a donut. But what about a pizza? I am not one of those eaters who shun chain restaurants for the sake of being an indie foodie. I follow my gut, and my gut often takes me to Pizza Express, a ubiquitous British chain of pizza restaurants (with the usual menu supplements of salads and pastas) that serves thin-crusted, gourmet-topped personal pizzas. In fact, I eat pizza from Pizza Express so often while I'm in the UK at school that I began to feel a bit guilty about it. You've heard of the freshman fifteen; I was worried it might snowball into the grad school... More

Snapshots from the UK: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

I love nothing more than unusual vegetables. It’s as if you turned the nose on a talking doorknob and emerged into a secret garden. I get a secret thrill when I buy orange cauliflower or purple artichokes. As a matter of fact, it seems that almost every vegetable comes in some rare purple variety: artichokes, asparagus, carrots, peppers, and, now, indigenous to Britain, broccoli. The British take great pride in serving and selling what is often referred to as the “best of Britain”—produce and livestock that is native to Britain, raised by British farmers, and served to British (or, in my case, American) consumers. Purple sprouting broccoli is one such vegetable, one which seasonally graces both the fancy restaurant... More

Snapshots from the UK: Wagamama's Defunct #28 (Chili Mushroom Ramen)

"Is my ramen some third grader who's no good at dodgeball and gets picked last for the team?" The now defunct Chili Mushroom Ramen. Do you have that one thing, that favorite thing, on that one menu that you always order? You go back to that same restaurant for that same dish, year in and year out. But would you go back if that dish was brutally, surreptitiously stricken from the menu one dark night when no one is around to save it? This is the story of how I was separated, cruelly, from my Chili Mushroom Ramen: #28 at Wagamama. Wagamama is a ubiquitous British noodle house chain, at which customers seat themselves up and down clean communal tables... More

Snapshots from the UK: British Blue Eggs

Easter is not long behind us, and I only have one comment on the matter: there is a reason why dying and dyeing sound exactly the same. All I ever get for my troubles are stained fingers and cracked shells. If the Easter Bunny is so magical, why can’t he just make a line of pastel-perfect eggs appear in the supermarket? As it turns out, in the UK, he does. Or rather, Clarence Court delivers a happy rainbow of colorful eggs to the Sainsbury’s down the road. Not only did Britain get Cadbury Creme Eggs first, but now British blue eggs. We are used to hens laying eggs in just two colors: white, and brown. Chic, perhaps, but also... More

Snapshots from the UK: Walkers' Crazy-Flavored Crisps Competition

The Brits are known for some wacky potato chips flavors—think Prawn Cocktail and Roast Chicken. When I first moved to England I committed myself to tasting them all, the only flavor I absolutely fell in love with being Sweet Chilli, as in Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. Now, powerhouse British "crisp" producers Walkers is asking the nation to vote for the next big flavor in its "Do Us a Flavour" competition that lasts until May 1. Being a Serious Eater has certain risks, and in the line of duty, I bit the dust—crazy-flavored dust that coated each and every chip. Eaters from around Britain sent in flavor ideas, and you'll never believe the finalists: exotic Crispy Duck & Hoisin, everyday... More

Snapshots from the UK: Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food

Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food Picnic Insulated Lunch Bag You know the first thing I order when I arrive in the UK, but what is the last thing I eat before I leave? Even though I love plane food, I think if it were British Airways's fish pie, I would be too depressed for words. Plane Food, the Restaurant in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Instead, since the culinarily inspired Terminal 5 opened at Heathrow this year, my last bite out of Britain is Gordan Ramsay's Plane Food. If you have time to kill, by all means, take a seat and order à la carte. The restaurant serves such refined fare as Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait with Sauternes Jelly... More

Snapshots from the UK: Percy Pigs

There is a strict rule in the Oxford University library prohibiting visitors or guests, but I did manage to sneak in one friend to keep me company on those long, dark, and grueling dissertation nights: Percy. He was a little porky, with round pink cheeks, and an indelibly sunny personality to counteract the gray drizzle outside the library's windows and the absolute recurrent boredom of literary research. The fact that he was a gummy fruit-flavored candy did not in any way diminish my love for him. Percy Pigs are the Marks and Spencer cult answer to the Haribo gummy bear: adorable, yummy, and positively addictive. Just look at that face! It was love at first sight; until I bit... More

Snapshots from the UK: McDonald's Fish Finger Happy Meal

I'll be the first to admit, British food isn't something I miss on a large-scale basis. Bloody black pudding, goopy bubble and squeak—not for me. I'd rather have a big slice of New York pizza. But, there are some English foods that I pine for, and the "Fish Finger" (that's fish sticks to we Americans) Happy Meal at McDonald's is one of the few. I'm always entranced by McDonald's foreign options. I've had Insalate Caprese in Rome and Dulce de Leche soft serve in Buenos Aires, but while in grad school in the U.K., the 2-quid, 500-calorie (including fries and a diet soda) Fish Finger Happy Meal became my library lunch of choice. Somehow, it just feels more wholesome to... More

Snapshots from the UK: Elderflower: Pressé, Collins, and Jell-O

Elderflowers. Photograph by Smoobs on Flickr English gardens may be world-renowned, but what most people around the world don't know, is that the English eat them! Well, not exactly. They eat elderflowers, which always remind me, when I taste them, of eating a perfect, fluffy, and white English flowerbed. The Elderflower Pressé is common place in England: elderflower syrup mixed with soda, and comes deliciously prepackaged. That was the first English secret garden flavor I discovered. Then I came across an Elderflower Collins: pressed elderflowers, green, green mint, lemon juice, gin, and soda. It is to date the greatest cocktail I have ever tasted. But the thing that positively shocked me was a dessert that I found first at... More

Snapshots from the UK: Parma Violets

This year for Halloween in England, I was a peacock. The fun of Halloween in the UK is not the trick-or-treating, but the candy flavors as exotic as my costume. Black currant Starburst and Turkish delight chocolate are a beginning, but they are not my favorite. Everyone talks about the English rose, but beautiful though she may be, I could take her or leave her. For me, it's all about the English violet—the Parma Violet. Parma Violets are something like our chalky fruity discs rolled up and given out as generic candies, but they are purple and reek of delicious, sweet, perfuming flowers. Luckily, they don't seem to have a "please take only one" Halloween candy rule in Oxford.... More

Snapshots from the UK: Ribena, and the Guinness and Black

Those of you who listen to the radio will recognize the line: "Ribena, I know what you're drinking" from the "American Boy" duet between Kanye West and Estelle. Kanye, the American boy, seduces Estelle, the English girl, by buying her a Ribena. As a girl who has been separated from the sweet, condensed black currant "squash" by the Atlantic Ocean, that pick-up line just might work on me. Kanye may know what Ribena is, but I would venture that most Americans don't. It's a condensed black currant (the Concord grape of England) juice meant to be diluted with water that is shoved under kid's noses when they are young so that they will grow into sweet, black-currant adoring adults.... More

Snapshots from the UK: Cadbury Creme Egg Twisted

Photograph from Svadilfari on Flickr There is something so frustratingly natural about the Cadbury Creme Egg. Nothing, of course, about its flavoring, but about its cycle. Like all other naturally occurring things, it is born in spring and then grows into something less adorable. One can only suspect it ends up as a peanut butter pumpkin around October and makes its final appearance as a gold foil-wrapped hard block of Christmas-tree-shaped chocolate at the end of the year. Such is life, and aging is difficult even for chocolate. Just when I thought I'd have to wait until April for the 2009 generation of Cadbury Creme Eggs, I was snatching up some Cadbury chocolate at Boots when I discovered what... More

Snapshots from the UK: The English Foodstuff Lexicon

Editor's note: Our intern Kerry Saretsky came back from a visit to England, where she'll be moving next year, with a lorryload of English-food blog posts. But before we continue with her Snapshots from the UK series, we thought a little English food glossary was in order. —Ed. When I first moved to England, the dollar rang in at 2.1 to the pound, and every time I ordered at a restaurant, something entirely unrelated to what I had said to the waiter would emerge from the kitchen. Having purchased the equivalent 2.1 American meals, and eaten exactly none of it, I was both famished and frustrated. It seems that we, the English and the Americans, do not really speak the... More

Snapshots from the UK: Earl Grey Sorbet

Photograph from speechlessson on Flickr Recently at Bumpkin, I cringed to hear an American tourist ask the waiter for an iced tea. They may do tea well in England, but they sure don’t do it iced. But I found an even better replacement. London's extravagant and wonderful Italian corner Locanda Locatelli does Earl Grey sorbet. I would have taken a picture as proof, only they don't allow cameras in the restaurant. The bitter bergamot of the tea was pierced with a sweetness requisite to all sorbets, and the cold assuaged my American cravings for tea leaves brewed on ice. It was delicate, unexpected, tricultural, and a bit downright impertinent. For me, it was love at first bite. From a... More

Snapshots from the UK: How the English Eat

My father, a bonafide anglophile, warned me: "When you move to England, watch how they eat!" "What do you mean, dad?" I laughed at him. "Don't they eat like everyone else?" "No—you'll see. They pile everything up on their fork as if they were stacking up a Leaning Tower of Peas at the end of their tines." Sure enough, as is usual, my father was completely right. There's a lot of chat about which way of eating is correct: the European method, where the fork remains in the left hand, and the knife in the right, or the American method, where the fork rests in the left hand while the food is being cut, and then moved to the... More

Snapshots from the UK: Turkish Delight

When I was a little girl, the Turkish Delight existed only as a fictional confection in the winter wonderland of Narnia's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I asked every adult I knew if they could tell me what Turkish Delight was, that sugary sensation that led Edmund to betray his family and country in order to live with the murderous White Witch. But no one knew—so I conceded that it was a delicious figment of C. S. Lewis's imagination. I waited until I was twenty-four years old to taste Edmund's Adam's apple. And then I found it, behind the glass of a British sweets shop, plump and dusted in a White Witch's snow shower of sugar. For... More

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