London’s Borough Market

I was planning to write this post a week ago, when the experience was fresh and I still heady from my trip abroad. Rather than enlist excuses, I would do best to simply quote Mr. Burns here, who once waxed, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.”

But here it is in all it’s belated glory. In London, I spent most of my daytime hours tucked inside our office there in the Bloomsbury district. I was pleasantly surprised by the food at Spaghetti House, whose name did not inspire much pre-meal anticipation. But my spaghetti puttanesca was downright dandy, and some of the entrees and other pastas my coworkers ordered looked very appetizing as well. For another lunch, I had a chicken salad sandwich that was anything but a salad, with crunchy striations of bacon running throughout it; I’m pretty certain it was equal parts bacon and chicken. Dinner at Acornhouse, a “social enterprise” restaurant near King’s Cross, ended up being a mixed bag of uninspired salads and solid entrees. What I really want to talk about, though, is Borough Market.

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BM is a food lover’s paradise. Perky produce and fresh butchered meats, specialty goods, sweets and prepared foods are plentiful, but the thing to go there for is the cheese. About half of the market is cheesemonger domain, and many of them specialize in a single type of cheese or cheese product. Every sample I tasted reinforced the notion that such specialization yields cheese that tastes far better than the mass-produced stuff that dominates the cheese market here. So did the evident pride and passion with which the sellers described their goods. Even though I’m sure they have to repeat themselves countless times over the course of the day, when I approached them many spoke with the kind of unflagging enthusiasm that you just can’t fake. There was one lad selling mushroom pâté who’s sheer energy was persuasion itself, and I totally would’ve caved in if I wasn’t flying out the next day. That he was easy on the eyes did not hurt.

Truffles, I smell you!

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Ugly creatures that look like poop. But true truffle beauty is in the flesh.

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Of the many lunching possibilities, this one tempted me above them all. A truckload of melted raclette cheese scraped over a mound of potatoes, finished with cornichons, pickled onions, and several turns of cracked black pepper. Interesting that the name of this dish is also raclette. I gobbled as much as I could before the cheese solidified, although the hardened cheese, especially the crispy edges, was not at all unpleasant to polish off. A bright-eyed tour of Neil’s Yard Dairy around the corner, some sweets for the office, and back to work one happy lady I was.

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Watch it happen:

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