Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010 Ginger and Rhubarb Cheesecake

This is the view looking from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall towards Parliament and the Thames.

Last night was the final game of the World Cup.  Did you know that? Believe me if you were here, you would!  No one has talked about anything else but the "hot" weather and who should win the World Cup, Spain or Holland.  The match started last night at seven.  In the two summers I've been here, I have NEVER heard the city so quiet. There was almost no traffic on the streets. just disgruntled cabbies and bus drivers.  Everyone else was at home or in a pub glued to the tele.  I knew when the game was over though, because an almighty roar reverberated up and down Gower Street at just about 10:30. Spain won.  Aren't you excited!  Londoners were.  This morning, everyone seemed to be nursing hang overs! The pubs had stacks and stacks of bottles outside waiting for the dust bin men. There is a decided drinking culture here. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But it added atmosphere for my morning walk.

Just a teaser of the fantastic view from the restaurant at
The National Portrait Gallery
For lunch I decided to treat myself! The National Portrait Gallery has a restaurant on their top floor. I had read that the restaurant had a great view of central London. It does. It was stunning!!! The lucky diners, me included, enjoyed a panoramic, roof top level view of Nelson's monument, Big Ben, the blue clock of St. Martins in the Field, Parliament, and of course, the London Eye. When the girl showed me to my table, she had to slow down and wait for me because I couldn't take my eyes off the view. Unfortunately, the restaurant was a little of the snooty side, so I couldn't take pictures!

One of the water themed sculptures in Trafalgar Square
The lunch was good, too. Ordering was a bit intimidating, though. The menu was set up in courses! But I'm learning that acting as if you are confident even when you don't feel it, can carry you through a lot of situations! When you make a mistake but do it confidently, people just think, "Oh. That must be the way they do it in the states." Hee hee. I ordered a very fancy salad with a French name. It turned out to be a really nice Caesar salad with smoked chicken. It had some types of delicious cheese on it. It might have been Gruyere.

For pudding, I ordered a Ginger and rhubarb cheese cake. That probably doesn't sound that good, but I decided to be a culinary adventuress. After all, I've already had potatoes in a Waldorf salad while I was here, and that was pretty good! All I can say is: Yum! Yum! Yum! The cheesecake was beautifully displayed on the plate with a drizzle of honey and a little portion of delicious rhubarb. Next to the excellent cheesecake was a small scoop of Ginger parfait. It wasn't ice cream; it was kind of like ice milk, which doesn't sound that good, but was! It had a sprinkle of superfine crystallized Ginger sugar all over it! Wow! I wish I could have had a big bowl of just that. I wish I could wiggle my nose and send you all a piece! It was fab!

The restaurant started filling up right after I got there. Let me bust one cultural myth right now. The British are not always quiet! They may be soft spoken in public places like museums, but they are not quiet when they are socializing! That restaurant got noisy. Another cultural myth I want to bust right now, the British - not so classy! I think the accent lulls Americans into giving them more credit than they are due. They are just like us. Sometimes the salad falls off their forks, just like ours. And, the backwards way they hold their forks - not superior - just different. It's not even efficient with some foods.

The only painting of the Bronte sisters painted during their lives.
It was painted by their brother, Bramwell, who was somewhat
of a disappointment to the family. 
The day was great! I wandered through The National Portrait Gallery, avoiding the annoying school groups, and gazing lovingly at my literary heroes like Samuel Pepys and Charlotte Bronte. Then, I went next door to The National Gallery and saw a special exhibit called "Fakes, Mistakes, and something, something, something." The National Gallery is one of the top art research museums in the world. Over the years they have pioneered many ways to authenticate art. This exhibit showed various paintings and the way the museum discovered if they were forgeries. Sometimes the paintings were not forgeries, just copies made by students who were in training.
The fake Botticelli

The real Botticelli
Apparently, some of those students were so good that down through the centuries their copies came to be mistaken for the true artist's work. Other paintings were believed to be fakes, but when the experts analyzed the work they found it to be authentic. Some of those painting were just so dirty, no one could tell they were real. Others had been restored so poorly in the past, particularly in the 1800's, that they were believed to be bad copies of lost originals. Can you imagine thinking that old painting you have in the hallway is just a mildly interesting bit of work, and then finding out it is an Old Master! It was an interesting show.

I got my wish! On the way home, it started to rain. Just a little, just enough to be irritating. All the tourists whipped out their umbrellas. All the locals just kept on walking. I would have whipped out my umbrella, but I had left it in my room. So, I just put on my sun glasses so the rain wouldn't blur my contacts. Ten minutes later, the dun was back out! Ah, London weather.


One of the four lions in Trafalgar Square.

This tiny space in Trafalgar Square is the smallest police station in London; it has just enough room
for one bobbie to get out of the rain.

The National Portrait Gallery is the centerpiece of Trafalgar Square.

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