Wimbledon Fever

I might be missing in blogging action over the next two weeks. No cause for alarm, I’ll just be glued to the radio and television for most daylight hours. I’d like to say that it’s political conscious, paying attention to the turmoil in Iran but the truth is far less political, though equally global. You see, Wimbledon has descended upon London and I, like every other tennis fan, am caught up with Wimbledon fever.

Last year’s memorable final between Nadal and Federer is bittersweet for me. While on the one hand I watched it in the comfort of my new London flat, eating the Wimbledon snack of choice, strawberries and crème, I still regret not visiting the Wimbledon grounds during the tournament. At the time, I thought that I wouldn’t have another chance. Now, a year later and still in London, I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. I’ll be making my way down to the the tournament grounds and while the centre court tickets (at £72 a pop starting next Monday and only a tenner less later this week) might be a bit out of my price range, I plan on being in the crowd on the lawn for the finals, even if it means camping out to get tickets.

So if you don’t hear from me, tune in to ESPN or BBC sports to watch the Wimbledon matches. You might just see me cheering in the crowd.

Taste of London 2009

I’m standing outside Regents Park next to a chef, a policeman and a journalist. While this might sound like the setup for a joke, it seems the joke’s on us – and the other hundreds of Londoners waiting to get into Taste of London, the annual gathering of foodies where London’s top restaurants offer up sample plates of their choice dishes – for a fee of course. There’s significantly less tasting, however, and quite a bit more tisking as the queue grows and the festival area, meant to have opened more than an hour earlier, remains disappointingly empty.

Finally there’s a cheer, a sudden rush of movement, and the gates open. An announcer comes over the loudspeaker to apologise for the excessive delay. “Er… it seems we’ve had a bit of a security threat this evening… a bomb threat for the fair.” The poor man sounds just as confused as the rest of us as to why someone might want to blow up a park full of delicious food. Maybe it was the vegans. “In any case, the police took it seriously,” he continues. “But they have given us the all clear.” Wow. As Emril would say, BAM. Not to be put off by trifles like terrorist threats, however, I push my way towards the front of the queue and aim for the food.

The biggest problem with the delay, which affected the chefs as well as the patrons, is that a number of the restaurants are severely delayed in their food prep. My group eyes a thick steak only to be told that the specialty needs at least 45 minutes of slow grilling before it will be ready. We wander off in search of a quicker fix for our food cravings.

The Taste of London is an amazing opportunity to sample food from London’s, and in fact the world’s, most famous and Michelin starred restaurants so as you might imagine it’s not an inexpensive outing. After the £25+ just for entry, Taste of London banks are waiting to provide you with “crowns,” the official spending money of the event. With 2 crowns per £1 and most dishes in the 6-10 crown range, you might find yourself shelling out £5 for a single scallop; a delicious scallop but a pricey one none the less.

That said, there are some dishes that are worth every crown and more. Roast Aberdeen Angus beef fillet with a tarragon mousse from Launceston Place, a choice piece of meat so well prepared that it cuts like butter and explodes with flavour. The classic duck burger from Croque Gascon, served with a spicey jalapeño chutney and French fries with crazy salt. The to-die-for chocolate cake from Theo Randall, a dense, dark chocolate pudding of soufflé consistency with a generous dollop of crema di marcarpone. I am nearly overwhelmed by the tastes and smells that surround me.

In addition to the restaurants on display, speciality food vendors are on hand to show off everything from homemade mustard to gourmet fudge. While desserts seemed to be especially popular, including Gü Brownies and Almondy, savoury treats including curries and sausages held their own with an aroma that permeated the whole park.

I end my evening with a wine tasting session hosted by wine expert and reviewer Will Lyons who takes us through four different summer wines, including the unique an syrupy sweet dessert wine made from grapes affected by noble rot. As we drain the last drops, the final closing call for Taste is announced over the speakers. Will looks around quickly and says, “I have something special for the last group of the night!” Out comes a bottle of champagne for the half dozen or so of us who have ended the night in his tent. “How much would you pay for this?” he asks as we toast the bubbly. Various numbers are tossed out. “£45,” he grins, clearly pleased with the present he has shared.

As am I. I’m wined, dined, and haven’t been blown up – three things that always contribute to a good evening. Taste of London has been an amazing opportunity to explore the flavours of the city and I look forward to the day when I can revisit these restaurants for a full meal.

For Londoners, the Taste of London event runs through the weekend and I highly encourage you stop by Regents Park to visit the event before it closes 21 June.

View from the Top

It has been an exceptionally busy week, so busy in fact that I had to regretfully skip a night of free drinks, networking and the lovely people of the London tech scene yesterday to attempt to squeeze in a few extra hours of sleep. Tonight I’m off to Taste of London in Regents Park – an opportunity to sample foods from some of London’s top restaurants – and tomorrow it’s a fancy dress club night with a whole lotta blues, jazz and sultry sound called Voodoo Hoodoo.

In the meantime, I took an (abysmally poor quality because I moved too fast) video from the building where MoMo London was hosted – we were 10 stories above ground, directly overlooking the Tate Modern (the giant brick chimney attached to the large blocky building). Behind the Tate you can just make out St. Paul’s dome, the river and the financial district. If the view doesn’t make you ill, I hope this gives a bit of a taste of the view of London from above.

Mobile Monday London

Last night I had the chance to attend Mobile Monday London and wrote a review, Opinion: Mobile Monday London Showcases Mobile Industry Challenges –

It’s a typically rainy London summer evening and ten stories above ground, in a conference room overlooking the Thames, Tate Modern, St. Pauls and the London financial district, a mobile developer is having technology troubles.

He shouldn’t feel badly, it’s been a fairly rough night for some of the presenters at Mobile Monday London, or MoMoLo if you’re someone who likes to throw the world dongle around in casual conversation….

Read on

Were you in Shoreditch yesterday? You may have unwittingly have been a model for me as I trolled the area looking for victi… er, subjects during my Shoot Experience Documentary Photography workshop. From Old Street to Brick Lane, my camera confused, creeped out and occasionally complimented various tourists and locals as I attempted to get the perfect shot.

Saturday was day one of the two day workshop and we began bright and early, the seven of us around a table in a sunny Shoreditch loft to talk about what makes appealing photographs. Soon, however, it was time to put the theoretical to the test and we each embarked on an individual field trip to practice approaching individuals in the street and asking to take their photo. Now imagine for a moment that you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and someone stops you to ask if they can take your photo. What are the immediate thoughts that run through your mind? Stalker, pervert and sub-par blogger are all possibilities. Fortunately Shoreditch is a particularly trendy area of London so I imagine most people’s reaction was closer too “ooh I look pretty today” but it was hard to shake what would have been my initial reaction and reconcile that with what I was out doing. Of course, the idea of the workshop was to practice the skills needed to become an better photojournalist and by the end of the exercise I was feeling slightly more confident (or feeling the pressure of running out of time without getting my shots). Here are some of the individuals I met that day:

After looking at each other’s photos, lunch and a discussion about the types of shots that make up a photographic documentary piece, we then left as a group to explore Brick Lane and view the famous area as if we were shooting for a food photo documentary piece. Out in the field, we discussed examples of opening shots, details, portraits and more while getting very, very hungry. Here are some of my favourite snaps from the afternoon.

Delicious Brick Lane: Man Carving Cured Meat

Delicious Brick Lane: Man Carving Cured Meat

Deicious Brick Lane: Open Wide for the Paella

Deicious Brick Lane: Open Wide for the Paella

Deicious Brick Lane: Gluten Free Goodness

Deicious Brick Lane: Gluten Free Goodness

Of course what academic pursuit would be complete without some homework? Our assignment before the next class in two weeks is to decide on our own subject for a photo documentary and capture shots that can then be edited by the others in the group when we return. While awaiting inspiration, I’ll be increasingly snap happy as I travel through London to get the most out of the second half of the workshop.

Shoot Experience has a number of workshops for photographers as well as photo scavenger hunts for locals or tourists. Check out all of their upcoming events at the Shoot Experience website.