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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

I never thought I would spend much time in Wichita, Kansas. It just wasn’t a place that was on my radar. However, in the last two years I have found myself in circumstances that have required a few extended stays there.

My first visit to Wichita was over a weekend and included a Saturday visit to a diner, an airshow, a wine bar and a club. By Sunday I felt like I had done it all and after a wander in a more than dead downtown, I gave up and spent the rest of the day watching HBO.

However, a few more visits had me scratching beneath the surface and finding a community friendly to an admittedly hippie soul like mine. Here’s what I found so that on your next visit you can skip the HBO and hit the ground running.

Food and Cafes

While a few restaurants and cafes offer vegetarian or a “healthier” option somewhere on the menu (examples Public or Anchor) I found the real standouts to come down to Lotus Leaf Cafe and The Garden Grill. Both are located downtown and have hours that vary during the day with Lotus Leaf closing early some days and Garden Grill closing for dinner completely on some days. I suggest checking the website before heading that way. Garden Grill’s menu is strictly vegan and there’s often a buffet but I find ordering off the menu preferable. Lotus Leaf offers plentiful vegan and vegetarian options with meat options interspersed on the menu, making it easy to convince a carnivore to come with you if they are hesitant. Both have amazing smoothies and juices.

Speaking of juices and smoothies, I would be amiss to mention that Wichita now has it’s very own Whole Foods on the east side of town. I arrived in Wichita after a few days in Austin, Texas, where Whole Foods is headquartered, and I can’t say that the Whole Foods in Wichita is comparable in item selection to stores in say Austin or Denver, but it does offer a decent takeout selection and loads of other options.

If you are just looking for groceries (and perhaps you are a bit disgruntled at the Whole Foods scene), The Natural Grocer has been around a while in Wichita. Their takeout selection is not so great, but you can get all the yummy groceries and supplements your heart desires!

Yoga Studios

All that food got you geared up for a nice stretch? I hope so because holy crap, yoga classes in Wichita only cost about $10 US a session. Do you know how much they cost in Singapore? Anywhere from 25 to 55 Singapore dollars (that’s $18 to $40 US).

My previous trips to Wichita have had me spending a lot of time with Adrian and Whitney at Siva Yoga. Formerly located downtown, you can now find them in the just east of central neighborhood of College Park. While I enjoyed their flowy classes in a warmish 80 to 85 degree room in the past, this trip I was second trimester pregnant and the thought of being in a heated room, even if it wasn’t Bikram hot, made me want to gag. (Listen to your body, yo!)

This led me to the even more east of central studio, Central Yoga, which is named after it’s location on Central Avenue. First, I hit up the community acupuncture sessions which cost a mere $15. The sessions are drop in, so you don’t have to be exactly on time for Dr. Vicki Dukes, DC to align your qi with her tiny little needles. I left floating on air, came back the next day for a fantastic aligned flow class with Keriann and later that week for an awesome prenatal class with the very knowledgeable Sally Beckett. If you are more into alignment than warm flow, Central Yoga is a great option.

Shopping

If you’re looking to do some shopping, I’d skip the often bragged about Bradley Fair and check out Watermark Books, an independent book store in College Park and RELove, a shop on Woodlawn that sales repurposed furniture and also holds classes to teach you how to repurpose a great find yourself.

Outdoors

While I can’t say I spent much time in nature while in Wichita, I can say that the river area through downtown is nicely kept and good for a stroll or run.

Live music

Live music seemed to radiate from bars and restaurants downtown in the summer evenings. Try Oeno Wine Bar for a start with relaxed jams while you sip a Pinot.

That’s all I have for now on Wichita. Got a secret tip? Let me know in the comments. xx

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Oh no! They’ve closed the Singapore Carrefour! Both of them!

Panic. Where am I going to get things?

“Imagine not having a Walmart or a Target to go to,” I tell Leslie back in Texas.

“Yeah, I could see how that would be annoying,” she says.

It’s not that either of us like or philosophically support Walmart, it’s just that sometimes it becomes a necessary evil.

“Can’t you order things online?” Leslie asks.

“No,” I sigh. “Some things you can, but its not like they have an Amazon here.”

“Can you Yelp it?” she suggests.

“Nope no Yelp either,” I answer.

Hopefully someone more business-minded and less lazy than myself will see this as an opportunity.

But alas, this may be an overreaction. Afterall, there’s always the Mustafa Center.

In the heart of little India and open 24 hours, it’s 75,000sq ft of random and not so random items, a hotel, café and supermarket. It is the place to go to buy tomato soap, an engagement ring, an ipad and an eye massager all at 2 am on a Tuesday, emerging three days later after a sensory overload induced psychosis has finally run its course.

That’s right, I said tomato soap, not soup. And yes, an eye massager as well.

Eye massager. Multiple varieties available.

Did you think I was kidding?

In the spirit of Diwali, maybe I’ll head down to little India. Since I’m there anyway, perhaps I’ll pick up a curry, some aspirin and a new laser printer.

If I’m not back by Friday, send a search party out.

Editor’s note: Yelp has answered my plea! Or maybe I was mistaken in the past. Seems like some Singapore places are rated on the site. It’s a start.

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Courgette Fries from Byron

In case you were wondering, the grilled portobello mushroom burger with roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese was pretty damn good too.

http://www.byronhamburgers.com/

Byron on Urbanspoon

 

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For years I heard about the Wagamama chain. When we lived in the U.S., Husband told me this was a top choice for broke university student night out food in London. Wagamama is all over London, so it’s surprising that it took me this long to try it.

I understand why it’s an old standby. Wagamama is healthy and affordable. The atmosphere is casual and it is a comfortable spot for solo dining. Staff approach you at long benches or booths on the side of the restaurant.  It’s style is dining out for the masses, albeit well designed.

The dish was standard issue but the warm broth and noodles in my Saien Soba were comforting on a cold day. I left utterly stuffed.

Saien Soba: whole wheat noodles in a vegetable soup topped with fried tofu, bean sprouts, courgettes, asparagus, red onions, leeks, mushrooms, mangetout and garlic. Garnished with spring onions.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

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Molly needed to pick up twelve antique picture frames. Where should we go? The first place that springs to mind for antiques is Notting Hill, but that sounds a bit pricey. I suggest Spitalfields market. That place is bound to have a random booth full of quirky old picture frames for cheap, right?

Wrong. We went on Thursday because that was antiques day, but we were unable to locate anything suitable in her price range. Most of the frames had things like hand drawn maps from the 1800’s inside and we weren’t about to purchase them at £40 a piece only to ditch the map.

So we gave up (or rather decided to rely on the internet for this purchase) and get some lunch instead.

We stopped into Leon. I was really excited to try this place. Their model is healthy, fresh and cheap. They’ve done so well that they even have their own cookbook!

I stepped up to the counter and ordered the sweet potato falafel with aioli hot box and passed over my £6. A few minutes later I was presented with a box on a tray. Molly ordered a salad and hummus.

When we sat down I opened my box and urm, was a little disappointed. Look at it, it just seems so squished and sad.

Sweet potato falafel hot box

 

Well I suppose presentation isn’t everything. The meal tasted fine but I’m a calorie snob who would prefer great. Visible in the box is brown rice, coleslaw, sweet potato made into falafel-like shapes that were warm and mushy, and a slight drizzle of aioli.

The hummus was really nice but the flatbread was dull. The flatbread would have been really nice if it were toasted or warm.

 

Molly tucking into the hummus.

Did I catch Leon on the wrong day? Did I order the wrong thing? The food was decent, but not great. Definitely not cookbook worthy. Still, I am grateful for affordable healthy options.

We stopped into Montezuma on our way out where we were greeted with samples of peppermint dark chocolate. I’m not really big on sweets but I love dark chocolate and this was really delicious. I contained myself (mostly) but left with a bar of Sea Dog, dark chocolate with juicy lime and sea salt. I am addicted. Which is OK because it’s gluten free and vegan, right?

Image courtesy of Montezuma

Bottom Line?

  • Antique Picture Frames – Ebay.
  • Leon – Maybe, but probably not.
  • Montezuma – Oh yes.

Leon on Urbanspoon

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17 Took’s Court
London EC4A 1LB
020 7242 2622

www.vanillablack.co.uk/

One thing about living in a world city like London is the totally different class of vegetarian restaurants available. In many towns, the vegetarian establishments are typically cute and quirky but not particularly fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, I love my quirky and fun veggie restaurants, but it’s nice to branch out for a special occasion.

The name, Vanilla Black, creates images of stark contrasts. The establishment rides on this theme with a fine but demure atmosphere. During lunch the crowd was mostly polite people in business attire and a solo me in my denim and trainers plopping down a humongosized hobo bag with camera, maps and books spilling out the edges.  At the moment, I felt like Vanilla in a world of Black, but it was lunch and I had been on the lookout for upscale vegetarian dining for a while.

Weekdays from 12-2:30 Vanilla Black has an amazing set menu of 2 courses for £18 or 3 courses for £23. I decided on 2 courses: an appetizer of Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream and a main of Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle.

The staff was courteous, polite and attentive but formal. In keeping with the contrast theme, the server brought bread with sea salted butter and black peppered butter which I immediately chowed down on along with a glass of white wine.

Sea salted and black peppered butter for the bread, wine.

The wonderfully presented beetroot dish had the most amazing wasabi cream. The power of the wasabi mixed with the cooling cream made an unusual but perfect pairing and flowed nicely with the natural sweetness of the beetroot.

Sweet and Sour Glazed Baby Beetroot with Candied Fennel and Wasabi Cream

The unlikely combination of ingredients were proving to be well thought out and delightful. I conquered every bite of the beetroot and was anxious for the main course.

Asparagus and Chervil Pesto Crumpet with Yoghurt Curd, Potato Cakes and Leek Tagliatelle

“This is what crumpets are?!?” I thought as I vowed to eat crumpets every day. The aparagus, yoghurt curd, potato cakes and leeks were extremely pleasing. At this rate, my ordering skills were  having a 100% success rate. I decided to go ahead for the dessert. The plates were small-ish, I reasoned.

The peanut butter parfait sounded a bit rich so I chose Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chili Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream. That’s where my lucky streak ended. The Pineapple overpowered all the other ingredients and left the dish feeling stagnant. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to the expectation after the other two courses.

Olive Oil and Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Chilli Syrup, Mango Pureé and White Chocolate Ice Cream

Bottom Line: Vanilla Black works the contrast theme with amazing and inventive results. The pricetag is a little hefty for everyday, but the restaurant boasts a decent set lunch best with dessert skipped.

Vanilla Black on Urbanspoon

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Boyfriend’s company was taking part in a huge industry event and loads of employees were coming to London to participate. Many people were bringing their wives and the CEO’s wife was hosting a special spouse event that included a trip to the V&A Museum to see the Grace Kelly exhibit and lunch at the Ritz.

You could spend days in the  Victoria and Albert Museum and not feel like you’ve seen everything. The place is huge and there is such a wide variety of exhibits that even the most museum adverse can find something of interest.

Grace Kelly :  Style Icon highlighted the life and wardrobe of the Princess of Monaco from her early modeling days on through to her days in the palace. There are several famous dresses, shoes, hats, glasses and other pieces she wore throughout her life. She tended to wear things more than once, unlike many Hollywood personalities today. She described it as being faithful to her clothes like she would be faithful to her friends.

Although her clothes evolved with the times, she sustained a femininity valued strongly in her era. This ideal fulfillment is what I think made her so popular, but what made her endearing are the small glimpses that portray a person behind the image. For example, photos depict her wearing her glasses on the tip of her nose because she was shortsighted. These images take her out of the realm of object and remind you she’s human.

After viewing the Grace Kelly exhibit we were free to have a look around the museum on our own for an hour or so. I decided to tackle the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibit and have a stroll through the garden.

I highly recommend the Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibit. V&A invited nineteen architects to submit proposals for structures examining notions of refuge and retreat. Seven were selected and constructed and are dotted throughout the museum. You grab a map and one by one hunt them down. This is great not only for architecture enthusiasts, but also for getting to know your way around the massive museum.

One of my two favorite structures was a reproduction of an unauthorized structure  in Mumbai. This small but well used space was home to a family of eight. Not a bit of space was wasted. There were even areas reserved within the structure for contemplation and worship. The Studio Mumbai achieves their goal of communicating the poetry of such small and disregarded habitats. I felt humbled while exploring this space and contemplating my own relative palatial home.

Replication of tree growing through unauthorized Mumbai structure.

My other favorite structure was a free standing wooden tower of books. The wood structure was unfinished and had not only a natural feel and look, it also had a wonderful smell. Books were aligned within the wooden structure to achieve entire walls consisting only of used books. This formed a wonderful collage, each book full of ideas and concepts yet to be learned and experienced. Within the tower were small reading chambers where the viewer was invited to browse the books, sit and meditate or just rest. I can honestly say this is one of the most peaceful, calming and meditative spaces I have ever been in. I could have curled up in the meditation couch for the rest of the day and been at one with the universe.

Be still my heart! An entire structure made of books!

While I wanted to stay in the book structure forever, I also wanted to check out the garden. It was a well manicured garden with a terrific water feature and cafe. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or contemplate the works of art you have just viewed.

Victoria and Albert Garden

At this point, it was time to meet up with the group and head towards the Ritz for lunch. Upon arrival, we were greeted with an exceptional level of service by the staff and sat in the extensively adorned Music Room.

Chandelier in the Music Room

I have always wanted to go to the Ritz for afternoon tea, but considering the touristy nature and high price, I had put it off for a special occasion or when I had visitors who also wanted to go.

The first course for our lunch was a crown of asparagus served with walnut salad and lemon creme fraiche. The presentation was beautiful. Please forgive the quality of these photos. They were taken with an old iPhone.

Crown of Asparagus

For my main course I had chosen Spring Vegetable Risotto. Some of the ladies at the table looked at my meal with envy. “Back off, it’s mine!” I told them.

Spring Vegetable Risotto

While the Risotto was delicious and the asparagus was decent, the dessert was amazing. We were served strawberry terrine with buttermilk sorbet. The doughnut on the end completed the dish for me.

Strawberry Terrine with Buttermilk Sorbet

Our meal was followed by coffee, teas and frivolities. We passed the frivolities around and around again. The other ladies groaned about their waistlines, but I dug in each time. I’m definitely not one of those girls who doesn’t eat carbohydrates.

Frivolities

The meal was really a treat. You can have a more affordable but just as good meal elsewhere (although I didn’t pay, the company did) and you don’t always want to be around such pomp and circumstance. Considering that, the Ritz London is one of those things you need to do once. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Bottom Line:

Victoria and Albert Museum – Go see the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces exhibit. It’s free and on through the end of the August.

The Ritz London – Go once for a treat, preferably when someone else is paying. It’s touristy and expensive, but the food is delicious, the experience unique.

Ritz on Urbanspoon

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