As you may or may not know, I spent last semester studying abroad in London, England. Although the UK once had the reputation of an edible wasteland, London has quickly become a premiere foodie destination worldwide. In addition to spending lovely days in this amazing city, I spent many of my spare weekends in other European locales enjoying the local fare.
This is Part I of my series Eating My Way Through Europe (EMWTE). Each post will feature a different country I visited and some of my favorite food finds from that location. Because London was my home base, this post is dedicated to the incredible, edible UK!
EMWTE Part 1: United Kingdom
One of my favorite classically-British foods is scones with clotted cream and jam. I thought I knew what a scone was, but my goodness was I mistaken. The triangular travesty that America has associated with the scone doesn't compare with the English original: circular, flaky scones topped with artisan jams and clotted cream, which I describe as butter with the consistency of icing. Artery clogging goodness.
So which scone reigned supreme?
Spelt and quinoa scone with ricotta cheese and homemade strawberry rhubarb jam from Le Pain Quotidien!
As much as I enjoy the original, this creative spin on a classic became an obsession of mine. When I discovered a Le Pain was walking distance from my flat, this became my breakfast/lunch whenever I had the time/money to spare.
Another amazing British custom is high tea. After my first high tea experience, I became addicted. It was a perfect excuse to stuff my face with tea, scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries, and call it "experiencing English culture". Doesn't get better than that.
However, high tea at the Fourteas in Stratford-Upon-Avon stole my heart.
I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon with my theatre class to learn about Shakespeare's birthplace, but I was not expecting a lesson on how to pull off a theme restaurant. The tea shop was 1940's-themed, which was expertly (but not too literally) executed through decor, costuming, and atmosphere. Plus, the pastries were some of the best (check out those adorable cupcakes!).
One of my favorite facets of London is the market culture. From Borough Market to Portobello Road to Brick Lane, food and shopping opportunities were abundant and affordable. My favorite of the bunch, Camden Market, consisted of hidden alleyways filled with independent artisans and international cuisine.
Peanut Butter Chicos from Cookies and Scream Bakery became an obsession.
I am a complete and utter cookie-a-holic, and when you add peanut butter into the equation, I get weak in the knees. Cookies and Scream, a completely vegan and gluten-free bakery, served up warm and gooey peanut butter cookies swirled with homemade cherry compote- EASILY the best PB cookies I've ever had.
My roommate Alex started dating a real live Brit (coincidentally, also named Alex), so before we went on our school-sponsored trip to Edinburgh, we asked him which Scottish delicacy we HAD to experience. He responded...
Fried Mars Bar. I am not kidding you.
When I first held the deep-fried treat, I was immediately disgusted. Grease was dripping into the plate, and the chocolate was weirdly squishy to touch. However, when I took my first bite, I basically blacked out. Not sure if it was my arteries clogging or my heart skipping a beat, but this deadly combination of melted chocolate, warm caramel, fluffy nougat, and a crispy exterior made me reconsider my existence. This Scottish mainstay would do serious damage on American soil.
Have you ever been to the UK? What food did you love or love to hate? Let me know and comment below!